University Hospital emergency room doctors open urgent care clinic

Sunday, July 26, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — As emergency room physicians at University Hospital, Scott Schultz and Jason Zerrer saw people with minor injuries or ailments sitting side by side with people who had been in a car wreck, broken a bone or been stabbed.

"Working there, I saw a lot of people who don't necessarily need to be in the emergency room," Schultz said.

That's part of the reason why the doctors are starting their own clinic, Providence Urgent Care. The clinic, located near Providence Road and Nifong Boulevard, opens on Wednesday.

Urgent care, also called acute care, is one of two general reasons that people go to their doctor. The other is for chronic, more long-term care.

"We're not trying to take people away from their primary care physicians," Schultz said. "If you're comfortable going to your doctor, and they're available, we don't want to change that. But say it's the weekend or at night, and your kid has an ear ache. That's when we can help."

Providence Urgent Care will be one of three urgent care clinics in Columbia and the only one that is privately owned. The other two clinics are University Physicians Urgent Care and Boone Convenient Care.

While Schultz and Zerrer are both still employed by University Hospital, Schultz will be spending all his time at Providence Urgent Care and will only work at the hospital if other doctors are unavailable and he gets called in. Zerrer will continue working full time at University Hospital.

Despite the multiple options for health care in Columbia, the city still has a market for urgent care, said Patrice Pash, senior consultant for National Med Network. National Med Network is a consulting group that helps start up urgent care clinics and was hired by Schultz and Zerrer to aid their venture.

"For the most part, urgent care is not competitive with emergency care or family practices," Pash said.

While primary care and urgent care physicians see patients for some of the same acute care needs, they each have their own unique qualities.

"We encourage establishing yourself with a primary care physician, because then they know you," said Gloria Crull, executive director of Family Health Center. "They know all your previous illnesses and what medications you're on. Therefore they are able to assist you with preventive care. Urgent care is a good model of care for meeting people's convenience needs."

A distinctive feature of the Providence Urgent Care is its online check-in system, which allows patients to make appointments online and only be called when a physician is ready to see them. This allows patients to wait at their homes, instead of at a waiting room, Schultz said.

"The online check-in should make things flow a lot better, especially with parents dealing with their kids," said Alan Wieberg, a registered nurse at Providence Urgent Care.

Prepackaged pharmaceuticals for patients, on-site lab tests and X-rays are other features of the clinic designed to get patients in and out quickly.

"Our goal is to have an average time of less than one hour for our patients," Schultz said.

Providence Urgent Care subleases part of its building to Peak Performance Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine. If Providence Urgent Care determines a patient needs physical therapy, they will prescribe it for them and can then recommend Peak Performance. The patient can go elsewhere if he or she wishes, Schultz explained.

The only financial relationship between the two clinics is the subleasing, Schultz said. Peak Performance's new clinic will open Aug. 3.

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Ray Shapiro July 26, 2009 | 8:42 p.m.

Unlike what Obama wants us to think, it doesn't seem like health care delivery systems are broken to me.
Kudos to Columbia Health Care providers.
If physicians can figure out how to best help patients, my guess is that they can do even more good if we took the "insurance executives" out of health care.
(Except possibly for an insurance policy for catastrophic illness, major injuries, dismemberment and end of life services.)

(Report Comment)
Melinda Lockwood July 28, 2009 | 12:42 p.m.

Good for them! Any time people can be given an option other than the emergency room, it saves everyone money! It still amazes me though how many people I know who have good insurance (I know it's good because they are on the same plan as I) run to the emergency room when they don't have an emergency. To me, a $100 co-pay, while reasonable in an emergency is not what I'm willing to pay -- I'll choose my regular doc or, in a pinch, a critical care facility! Kudos!!
Healthcare is NOT broken; it just needs some tweeking. I'm certain that if we could get the politicians out of the way and get some tort reform, we could fix it fairly easily.

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