The U.S. healthcare system is coping with a physician shortage, rising healthcare costs, and strained hospital capacity. Hospital administrators are struggling to reduce readmission rates, and the system is struggling to find a model that will work. Urgent care centers seem to be benefiting from the changing healthcare landscape. In 2013 there were nearly 9,000 locations across the United States. Most urgent care facilities are designed for walk-in care and injuries that require immediate attention but are not severe enough to warrant a trip to a hospital emergency room. Urgent care centers will treat common injuries and illnesses including colds, ear infections, cuts, aches and pains and other common issues. Many facilities will also take X-rays and perform simple blood and urine tests. Urgent care centers were once ridiculed as “Doc In A Box” medicine, the industry was worth more than $14.5 billion in 2014. You be the judge.
The urgent care business model is attractive to local hospitals, regional health systems, and commercial insurance companies. The facilities treat patients as quickly as possible—most people are in an out within half an hour. Nationally, the average charge for a visit is $155. Most do not accept Medicaid and require uninsured patients to pay upfront.
While urgent care centers blend emergency medicine with a family practice, they are higher risk facilities than a typical small physician office. If you own or operate a facility it is important to understand the types of insurance coverage available. Urgent care centers that carry only general liability insurance are not protected for medical professional liability claims and issues(malpractice). And the medical malpractice policy of a typical general practitioner who has a private practice, will not provide coverage if he or she also works part-time at an urgent care facility. A physician who works (moonlights) at various locations should ensure each urgent care center provides coverage for the physician and should not count on their own individual policy to cover them. A doctor will want to know how the policy limits are handled, are they shared or does each physician have their own limits and how much are the limits. Is the policy a claims made policy or an occurrence policy, who will pay for the tail coverage ? All important questions a physician should ask when they are working at an urgent care facility.
Urgent care malpractice insurance is designed to protect the facility itself. Coverage can also include doctors and staff such as nurse practitioners, RNs, and medical assistants. Policy limits can be customized to make sure there is adequate coverage in the event of a claim and lawsuit. Medical malpractice insurance exists for times when an unexpected event occurs that might require payment for damages, it is important to have the correct coverage with the correct carrier. As with other healthcare institutions, urgent care centers and their doctors and employees need these protections.
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The purpose of this article is to provide information, rather than advice or opinion.