Across the United States, Urgent Care Centers are becoming an increasingly popular way for residents to access healthcare services. As Urgent Care Centers become increasingly prevalent and popular, medical safety managers must consider how best to manage safety for urgent care centers for both patients and physicians.
According to a recent study, data from commercial health plans demonstrated that from 2008 to 2015, visits to emergency departments for non-emergency injuries or concerns decreased by 36%, while visits to non-emergency acute care centers, or urgent care centers, increased by 116%. In an interview with TIME, Dr. Sabrina Poon, who is an emergency department physician and research fellow at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, explained that the main draws for patients are the convenience, cost, and decreased wait times.
In the coming years, Urgent Care Centers are likely to have an even greater presence in communities across the country. The locations are part of a larger trend toward alternative healthcare treatment centers, including mobile integrated healthcare (paramedicine), telemedicine, or seeking treatments directly from retail sources, such as pharmacies. These options still makeup only a small portion of the acute care in the United States, but are particularly popular among young people, especially given the decrease in cost. The average trip to emergency room costs upwards of $422 out of pocket, depending on treatments rendered, while an urgent care visit averages only between $37 to $66, according to TIME.
Nurses and other healthcare workers who treat patients in non-traditional settings are just as susceptible to workplace violence and other safety risks, whether they are traveling employees, clinic workers, or telemedicine professionals. The challenges of protecting these centers may be different than those in a hospital facility, and safety managers should therefore create a unique safety plan to keep employees safe.
What Is Urgent Care?
An urgent care center is a type of walk-in clinic focused on delivering ambulatory medical care, located in a facility outside the traditional emergency room. The idea is to provide more affordable and convenient treatment for minor injuries, taking the burden off over-crowded emergency rooms while offering a variety of treatment services to patients. Facilities are most often equipped with x-ray machines and offer a variety of medical services. Patients can receive lab tests, stitches, splints, pregnancy tests, an EKG, or skin tests. The centers also can conduct primary physicals for individuals who need health clearance for camp or sports, making them a popular option for residents seeking non-emergency healthcare throughout the year.
In addition to accident treatment, the centers are also able to provide vaccines, tests, or other preventative care. Given recent outbreaks, any individual looking for a quick way to boost their immunizations or receive first-time vaccinations can also take advantage of the services at these healthcare locations. The urgent care clinic is unable to treat serious accidents, and if an issue is untreatable at a healthcare clinic the physicians on call will likely refer the patient to the closest hospital. Patients can prevent overcrowding urgent care centers and emergency rooms by understanding the most appropriate locations for their medical needs.
The main draw of these facilities is accessibility. For minor medical concerns, residents are more likely to seek care at a location nearest them, especially if time and money will be saved by doing so. Of course, despite the new setting, these are ultimately healthcare facilities and are subject to the same safety challenges as traditional healthcare settings. By putting together a comprehensive security plan, emergency managers can make sure that both employees and patients are not harmed.
How To Manage Urgent Care Safety
Healthcare workers face higher rates of workplace violence. According to OSHA, incidents of serious workplace violence (those requiring days off for recovery) are four times more common in healthcare than private industry. This violence impacts workers across a variety of roles, including homecare workers or traveling nurses and those treating patients at emergency clinics. The Urgent Care Clinic model can potentially reduce several of the risk factors, such as high wait times and crowded emergency rooms, which often incite verbal or physical threats toward nurses, but that doesn’t mean clinic workers don’t face the same risks and challenges as those in a hospital or other healthcare facility.
Since urgent care centers may be part of a healthcare network but are not under the jurisdiction of a hospital, they do not have the benefits of an in-house security team. Urgent Care Clinics are most often placed in shopping centers or other easily accessible locations. It’s important for the administrative staff to have the ability to reach affiliated security teams or local law enforcement, and leveraging any physical security measures such as security cameras or ID access control can bolster safety at these locations.
Technology can play a large role in managing safety for urgent care workers. A mass notification system is an essential tool for communicating with healthcare personnel, whether they are working in a hospital, managing operations at an urgent care clinic, or working in the field. If an urgent-care clinic has an emergency notification system in place, it can enable clinic supervisors, security staff, or other emergency managers to communicate with each other before a workplace violence incident occurs or seconds after an event to communicate the natures of the emergency and ensure the safety of other workers.
A personal safety app can also be useful for nurses or physicians working in urgent care clinics, as the tool provides an extra layer of safety for workers who are independent of a hospital facility. The app allows employees to connect directly with facility security with an emergency call button. In addition, there is a 2-way anonymous tip texting capability, that enables urgent care clinic workers to report any harmful behavior or incidents, such as sexual harassment, to the clinic managers or an affiliated hospital.