URGENT CARE centers fill a noticeable gap in our health care system, providing less expensive access to care than emergency rooms (“Urgent care centers in Mass. fill a gap,” Health & Wellness, Feb. 17). It is important, however, not to be preoccupied with short-term savings in considering their use. The ultimate savings in health care costs will come from coordinated care for patients. This means care that is delivered at the right time, in the right place, by the appropriate medical professional, and incorporated into an electronic medical record system that follows the patient and provides a full medical history.
As pioneers of the medical home model, community health centers have led the way in providing such care, including in their urgent care clinics. Providing same-day appointments, offering off-hours clinical advice, tracking test results, and referring patients to appropriate specialists are fundamental to quality, coordinated patient care. Patients at an urgent care center should ask the staff whether it provides these basics. Patients, communities, and the fiscal health of Massachusetts benefit when health care providers take a comprehensive approach to ongoing and urgent medical needs.
The writer is CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.