Freestanding Emergency Departments: Treating Common Conditions at Emergency Prices

December 06, 2017
fsed common conditions

A new report from UnitedHealth Group, "Freestanding Emergency Departments: Treating Common Conditions at Emergency Prices," highlights the recent growth in freestanding emergency departments (FSEDs), which are physically separate from hospitals, and the resulting costs to consumers and the health care system. In Texas, FSED visits have grown to account for over a quarter of all ED visits. This report draws heavily on the experience of the Texas FSED market and highlights the potential impacts of FSED expansion in other states.

Key findings in the report include:

  • FSEDs largely treat non-emergent conditions: 2.3 percent of FSED visits are emergent or immediate and require services unique to an ED.

  • In Texas, the average cost of treating common conditions at an FSED ($3,217) is 22 times more than at a physician office ($146) and 19 times more than at an urgent care center ($167).

  • Shifting the site of care for common conditions in Texas from FSEDs to physician offices and urgent care centers would reduce costs by 95 percent, resulting in a savings of over $3,000 per visit.

  • Across the U.S., FSEDs disproportionately serve relatively affluent communities that have access to other providers and higher utilization and spending.