Urgent care clinic offers look at health care’s future
The convergence of hectic family schedules, high-tech lifestyles and the health care crisis are being addressed with a new approach in medical services.
Doctors Express is a nationally franchised urgent care clinic that is bringing its business model to the Northwest, including the Sept. 15 opening of a clinic in South Everett, at 607 SE Everett Mall Way, Suite 2.
The aim is to offer health care to busy families who can’t get a quick appointment with their regular doctor or, if they don’t have a family doctor, dread the option of a long wait in a hospital emergency room.
Owners of the company believe the Seattle area is ideal for their concept and, in fact, are suggesting that Doctors Express will do for a trip to the doctor’s office what Starbucks did for a cup of coffee.
They decided to test market their centers in the Seattle area “because of its demographic of high tech moms who want a quick and efficient diagnosis served up like a fresh to-go latte – all in clean, sleek centers with flat screen TVs, Wi-Fi and iPads so the family stays entertained and connected,” spokeswoman Sue Yanello said.
While urgent care clinics aren’t new, the founders of Doctors Express believe they’re taking the concept to the next level: their clinics are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the year, including weekends and holidays; they aim to get you in to see a doctor or physician’s assistant within 15-20 minutes, and out the door in less than an hour; they offer discounts for cash payments, but accept most insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid; and because they don’t need all the equipment and staffing of an emergency room, they’re able to offer a low-cost alternative.
“We are catering to the customer experience; people don’t want to waste their entire day waiting for their doctor, and don’t need the full-scale resources or expense of a hospital emergency room,” said Jeromy Sjolseth, operator of five corporately-owned Seattle centers.
Mike Dalton, co-owner of the South Everett clinic, said that he and his wife, an ER nurse, have five children.
So, not surprisingly, “We know what it’s like to wait in the emergency room,” Dalton said.
When one of their sons broke his wrist while skateboarding, they waited three hours before doctors could see them in the hospital ER.
“We looked for something more convenient to the hectic life we all live,” he said. “Today, planning ahead is becoming less common and on-demand is becoming more common.”
Statistics suggest the Doctors Express business model points to the future for many of today’s health-care needs. Consider:
• 46 million Americans don’t have insurance, and many don’t have a primary care doctor;
• The American Medical Association reports it takes an average of 18 days to get an appointment with a primary care doctor and 30 days with a specialist;
• Studies show that nearly half of primary care doctors, including pediatricians, plan to retire or reduce the number of patients they see over the next three years.
Urgent care clinics increasingly will provide an alternative to the traditional doctor-patient model.
“I believe this is the direction health care is going,” Dalton said.
Founded in 2008 in Baltimore, Doctors Express now has 57 franchises up and operating, and has sold nearly 150 franchise territories in 27 states.
A Doctors Express clinic always has a physician on staff, as well as an on-site lab for blood work and other testing, x-rays, medication dispensing and other treatment and service options.
They also offer employment and sports physical exams, drug screenings and work-site inoculations for local employers.
Dalton said they don’t intend to replace primary care physicians but, rather, to complement them.
“Oftentimes, people come in to us, then follow up with their primary,” he said.
Dalton said Seattle is ideal for testing the concept.
“The climate and weather here don’t keep everyone healthy, so it’s a great place to prove a model,” he said.