This study attempts to quantify and characterize the patients who leave before being seen (LBBS) by a physician in an urgent care setting.
A retrospective chart review was performed of visits between 1 May 2008 and 31 March 2010, at five urgent care centers (UCC). Variables extracted included sex, age, date and time of visit, and the chief complaint. A log of patient reports of the reasons for LBBS was reviewed. The relationship between waiting times and LBBS was analyzed for visits between 1 April 2012 and 30 June 2012.
LBBS visits comprised 2.0% of the total of 378 332 visits. The left-before-being-seen group had a higher percentage of men (P<0.0001), and young and middle-aged patients (P<0.0001). The left-before-being-seen group had more visits in the overnight and daytime shifts and fewer visits on weekends (P<0.0001). Of those 10 409 patients who reported reasons at discharge, 43% cited a long wait time and 39% did not want to pay the copay. In the group for which wait times were available, 92.3% were triaged within 30 min and yet 60% of those who gave reasons stated that they were leaving because they had waited too long.
The rates of leaving before being seen in urgent care were comparable with the lower end of those reported by emergency departments. Patients who left before being seen in UCC were most likely to be working-age adults during daytime hours. In UCC, LBBS is often related to perceived, rather than actual, long wait times.