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BMC health services research [electronic resource]


BACKGROUND: Patients with headache often seek urgent medical care to treat pain and associated symptoms that do not respond to therapeutic options at home. Urgent Cares (UCs) may be suitable for the evaluation and treatment of such patients but there is little data on how headache is evaluated in UC settings and what types of treatments are available. We conducted a study to evaluate the types of care available for patients with headache presenting to UCs.

DESIGN: Cross-Sectional.

METHODS: Headache specialists across the United States contacted UCs to collect data on a questionnaire. Questions asked about UC staffing (e.g. number and backgrounds of staff, hours of operation), average length of UC visits for headache, treatments and tests available for patients presenting with headache, and disposition including to the ED.

RESULTS: Data from 10 UC programs comprised of 61 individual UC sites revealed: The vast majority (8/10; 80%) had diagnostic testing onsite for headache evaluation. A small majority (6/10; 60%) had the American Headache Society recommended intravenous medications for acute migraine available. Half (5/10) had a headache protocol in place. The majority (6/10; 60%) had no follow up policy after UC discharge.

CONCLUSIONS: UCs have the potential to provide expedited care for patients presenting for evaluation and treatment of headache. However, considerable variability exists amongst UCs in their abilities to manage headaches. This study reveals many opportunities for future research including the development of protocols and professional partnerships to help guide the evaluation, triage, and treatment of patients with headache in UC settings.

Medical Subject Headings

Ambulatory Care Facilities; Cross-Sectional Studies; Headache; Humans; Migraine Disorders; Quality Improvement; United States

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