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Fam Med. 2019 May;51(5):420-423. doi: 10.22454/FamMed.2019.477798.

Impact of a Student-Run Clinic on Emergency Department Utilization.

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University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.
Crimson Care Collaborative, Boston, MA.
Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Crimson Care Collaborative, Boston, MA, and Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.



Student-run clinics (SRCs) provide primary care access to low-income patients who would otherwise pursue more expensive care, such as visits to emergency departments (ED). Decreasing inappropriate ED utilization offers an opportunity to create value in the health care system. However, to date, no SRC has rigorously studied this. This study examines whether increased access to ambulatory care through an SRC, the Crimson Care Collaborative (CCC), is associated with decreased ED utilization, providing value to payers and providers, and justifying investment in SRCs.


We conducted a 5-year retrospective analysis of 796 patients to determine if ED utilization changed after patients enrolled in CCC. We used patient-level ED visit data to estimate the average change in ED utilization. A regression analysis examined the impact of demographic and clinical variables on changes in ED utilization.


Average per-patient ED utilization significantly (P<0.001) decreased by 23%, 50%, and 48% for patients enrolling in CCC from 2013 to 2015, respectively. Following enrollment in CCC, average ED utilization decreased by 0.39 visits per patient per year. This translates to 62.01 avoided ED visits annually, and estimated payer savings of $84,148, representing 68% of the clinic's direct operating costs.


CCC created value to payers and providers from 2013-2015 by providing a lower-cost source of care and increasing ED capacity for more emergent and appropriate care. This study suggests that SRCs can create financial value for both payers and providers while also providing an avenue to teach value-based care in medical education.

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