It was the right decision. We were able to drive right up to the building and park. We enrolled quickly and our insurance information was processed immediately. After a brief wait, we were evaluated by an efficient staff and the Emergency Medicine trained physician quickly identified the suppurative pharyngitis which I missed with my flashlight exam at home.
I got to speaking to one of the owner operators regarding his business and his clients, which included patients sent by a number of prominent department chairs at my own institution. Basically there is no way large integrated healthcare systems to deal with mundane yet urgent medical matters without both substantial costs and inconvenience of patients. Most of us actually realize this. The local urgent care centers have a defined value added model and operate in lower cost real estate. They can truly handle the mundane, generally non-life threatening scenarios better, faster, and cheaper. If we are advocates of our patients, why would we not utilize such resources?
This is an example of what David Ricardo, the famous English economist of the early 19th century described as the law of comparative advantage. the definition on Wikipedia is as follows:
In short what this means is that one does not try to grow pineapples in Nome, Alaska. The environment is just not right and although you can invest resources to change that environment, it makes more sense to grow the pineapples where the environment is right. Similarly, dealing with mundane but urgent medical problems in an environment constructed to deal with life threatening emergencies is like trying to grow pineapples in Nome. It can be done but is very expensive and does not work well.
In economics, the principle of comparative advantage refers to the ability of a party (an individual, a firm, or a country) to produce a particular good or service at a lower opportunity cost than another party. It is the ability to produce a product most efficiently given all the other products that could be produced. It can be contrasted with absolute advantage which refers to the ability of a party to produce a particular good at a lower absolute cost than another.
The arguments against the development of convenient urgent care centers focus on the need for cross subsidies to support the missions of conventional emergency rooms. If the urgent care centers bleed off the simple patients which so happen to be most lucrative, where does that leave the emergency rooms? That argument might have some merits, but the problem is not with the urgent care centers. It is with the payment system which uses administrative pricing formulas and sets the prices wrong. No subsidies would be needed if the payment for true emergency room services was actually correct. As long as they are set by administrative fiat, they will always be wrong.