Urgent care centers are not all the same

I bet you didn’t know that May is National Urgent Care Awareness Month. Urgent care centers are one of the fastest growing segments of healthcare across the nation and here in Central Massachusetts. According to the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) there are already more than 6,400 urgent care centers across the country with many more in the planning stages including the five to 10 we plan to build in Central Massachusetts over the next three years.

One of the reasons urgent care centers are growing so fast is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act which has created millions of newly insured patients who don’t have a primary care doctor. These patients prefer not to wait in a crowded emergency department for low acuity care. For patients with simple medical problems, the convenience of an urgent care center in a nearby strip mall is hard to beat, but are they effective in delivering high quality care for less?

I think the answer to this question is yes, especially when they are part of an integrated health care delivery system like ours. We can provide urgent care in addition to emergency care, primary care and specialty care. Urgent care centers without connections to the health systems that manages the rest of a patient’s care are, in my opinion, much less valuable to a community than centers that have  well established relationships for emergency department back up, and that offer quality oversight and providers capable of caring for patients after their urgent care visit.

As we expand our urgent care footprint, our centers will leverage the expertise and vast resources of our health care system to deliver greater value to our patients. In essence, we will offer urgent care as a seamless component of the continuum of services we provide, with a focus on convenience, quality, and affordability. Our urgent care centers will serve as an extension of our primary care practices and emergency departments and all of the information will be accessible so that all providers will have the information they need to make clinical decisions.

I think UMass Memorial Health Care is uniquely suited to provide urgent care services in Central Massachusetts using a fully integrated approach that others cannot match. We are very proud of the incrHA_landing_page_Urgent Careedible success of our newest urgent care center in Leominster which is managed by UMass Memorial HealthAlliance Hospital. In a short period of time this center has had a positive impact on the population in that area, an impact we hope to duplicate as we open our centers in Northborough and Worcester later this year.

Employee with a wealth of ideas                                                                                       Katherine_AugerSwitching gears, I have to give a tip of my cap to Katherine Auger of UMass Memorial Community Medical Group. Since the start of this fiscal year, Katherine has submitted and implemented a whopping 25 ideas! Each time she implements an idea her practice manager gives her a piece of a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head

to add to her collection as a way of celebrating her success.  Way to go Katherine.

Our Idea of the Week comes from UMass Memorial Clinton Hospital. In an effort to provide a healthy benefit to patients and drive awareness of their physical therapy servicewater_bottles, Jennifer Baer, manager, of the  Rehabilitation Department created small water bottles with the name of the department and phone number on the label. The water bottles are given to patients during the discharge process and when requested during their treatment. The feedback has been positive and this is a win for patients – who are pleased to have a refreshing drink and stay hydrated – and for Clinton Hospital, which has a new way to market its services. Well done!

You can now find the Idea of the Week archive by clicking the Idea System tab at the top of this page.

Thanks for all your great ideas and for taking great care of our patients and one another,

Eric