This study compared costs, length of visit, and utilization trends for patients with fractures seen in an immediate care orthopaedic center (I-Care) versus the emergency department (ED) in a major metropolitan area.
A retrospective chart review of consecutive patients seen on an outpatient basis in the ED and I-Care over a 6-month period was conducted. Patient demographics, procedures done, care category, estimated costs, and disposition information were included for statistical analysis. Within the low-acuity fracture care group, a cost-comparison analysis was conducted.
A total of 610 patients met inclusion criteria with 311 seen in I-Care and 299 in the ER. I-Care patients were more likely to have low-acuity injuries compared with ED patients (60.1% versus 18.1%, P < 0.001). The length of visit was longer for patients seen in the ED compared with I-Care (6.1 versus 1.43 hours, P value < 0.001). A cost analysis of low-acuity patients revealed that an estimated $62,150 USD could have been saved in healthcare costs by the initial diversion of low-acuity patients seen in the ER to I-Care during the study period.
These results suggest that the I-Care orthopaedic urgent care model is a more cost-effective and more efficient alternative to the ED for patients with fractures requiring procedural treatment and low-acuity patients managed on an outpatient basis.