Most Transfers from Urgent Care Centers to Emergency Departments Are Discharged and Many Are Unnecessary

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Journal of Emergency Medicine

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Background Urgent care centers (UCCs) can offer a cheap alternative to emergency departments (EDs) for some patients with acute complaints. However, if patients who initially present to a UCC are unnecessarily transferred to an ED, those patients may suffer undue financial harm. The group of patients transferred from UCCs to EDs have never previously been studied. Objectives The primary objective of this study was to determine the fraction of transfers from a UCC to an ED that were unnecessary. We also assessed the frequency with which these patients were discharged from the ED, and tried to determine which groups of patients were most likely to be unnecessarily transferred. Methods This was a retrospective chart review performed on patients transferred from UCCs to our ED. If the transferred patient had no advanced imaging tests, advanced procedures, or specialty consultations in the ED, and was not admitted, we considered the transfer to be unnecessary. Patients were stratified by age (adult vs. pediatric) and type of insurance. Results We identified 3232 patients who were transferred from UCCs to our ED over a 1-year period. Among those, 1159 (35.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 34.2–37.5%) met our criteria as unnecessary, and 2075 (64.2%; 95% CI 62.5–65.8%) were discharged from the ED. Notably, pediatric patients were more likely than adult patients to be unnecessarily transferred. Patients without medical insurance were not more likely to be transferred than those with private insurance. Conclusion Most patients transferred to our ED from a UCC were discharged, and many transfers were unnecessary, especially those involving pediatric patients. These transfers may represent an economic burden to our society.


Pediatric transfers; Transfers to the emergency department; Urgent care


Medicine and Health Sciences



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