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Urgent care centers offering same-day services to cancer patients

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is encouraging these efforts through new payment and delivery models designed to reward quality cancer care, Lichtenfeld said. In addition, starting in 2020 hospitals may be penalized financially if patients who are receiving outpatient chemotherapy visit the emergency department or are admitted to the hospital, according to a final rule issued in November.

Avoiding the emergency department makes financial sense for patients and insurers, too.

Johns Hopkins Hospital opened a six-bed urgent care center next to its infusion center a couple of years ago. Of the patients who land there, about 80 percent are discharged home, at an average total hospital charge of $1,600, said Sharon Krumm, director of nursing at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. (The patient and the insurer would divvy up that charge based on the patient’s insurance coverage.) Only 20 percent of cancer patients who visit the hospital’s emergency department are discharged home. Those who are have an average total hospital charge of $2,300. The others face the ER charges plus the hefty cost of a hospital admission.

Rebecca Cohen has been a frequent visitor to the Johns Hopkins urgent care center. Diagnosed more than two years ago with stage 4 lung cancer, Cohen, 68, is receiving immunotherapy. She’s been treated or checked for dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, low hemoglobin, low sodium, blood clots and infection, among other things.

Before she started going to the cancer urgent care center, “you sat in the waiting room at the emergency room with people who had the most extraordinary diseases,” Cohen said. “Having stage 4 lung cancer, the thought of being exposed to pneumonia or bronchitis is more than scary.”


Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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