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PHILADELPHIA — Independence Blue Cross announced that it has expanded members' access to care by adding coverage for treatment at urgent care centers and retail clinics, and also has developed a new Web tool to help members locate these facilities.
The new Web tool is designed to make it easier for members to find urgent care centers and retail clinics for care for nonemergency conditions when their personal physicians are not available, like evenings and weekends.
"We know our members lead busy, demanding lives and sometimes need access to good medical care when their family doctors aren't available, but don't want to go to busy, more costly emergency rooms," stated Daniel Hilferty, IBC president and CEO. "That's why we've added coverage for urgent care centers and retail health clinics which provide safe, cost-effective care quickly and conveniently. This is just one more way we're changing the game so members can get care when they need it the most, along with the tools and information to make wise healthcare decisions."
"Whether members choose to visit one of our network doctors, a retail health clinic or an urgent care center, each can serve as a convenient alternative for conditions that require prompt medical attention but do not pose an immediate, serious health threat," added Richard Snyder, IBC's chief medical officer. "Options like these may also control unnecessary visits to the ER and help reduce overcrowding by enabling doctors to focus on patients with truly, life-threatening emergencies."
A 2010 RAND study has shown that roughly 17% of all visits to hospital emergency departments nationally could potentially be treated at retail based health clinics or urgent care centers for an estimated savings to consumers of $4.4 billion. The study reports that ER visits also are getting longer, with Pennsylvania ranked 22nd nationally in the length of its ER waits — of nearly four hours — according to the Emergency Department Pulse Report, Press Ganey Associates, 2010.