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Doctors Express urgent care centers to open in Worcester.

Byline: Geraldine A. Collier

Patients of Central Massachusetts physicians who are not affiliated with any hospital will be able to access after-hour and weekend care without going to an emergency department, beginning in late spring.

Doctors Express, in partnership with the 180-member Central Massachusetts Independent Physician Association, is planning to open two urgent care centers in Worcester that will offer a high level of medical care for people too sick to go to a walk-in clinic, but not sick enough to require an emergency room visit.

Independent doctors, who may have admitting privileges at area hospitals, care for half of the area's patients; however, those physicians now have no choice but an emergency room when it comes to referring patients who get sick after hours or on weekends.

Doctors Express has 12 urgent care centers in Massachusetts, according to James Brennan of MedVest LCC. That company holds the so-called master franchise for development of urgent care franchises throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Besides the two new urgent care centers in Worcester, Doctors Express will open another five elsewhere.

"It's our responsibility to develop those four states,'' said Mr. Brennan, whose company has an equity partnership with the physicians' association for the two new Worcester sites.

Gail Sillman, chief executive officer of CMIPA, declined to disclose the amount of the financial investment made by her organization.

One on Stafford Street

The first of the two urgent care centers in Worcester will be in a building at 115 Stafford St. that formerly housed a Blockbuster video store. Doctors Express plans a late spring opening after renovations are completed and staff hired. A lease on a second site is being finalized and the location will be announced shortly, according to Mr. Brennan.

'Our primary purpose'

An urgent care physician hired by both Doctors Express and CMIPA will be on site. Mr. Brennan said he expects a single physician will be hired initially, but expects more will be hired as the urgent care centers become busier. The two centers will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends.

In searching for a urgent care facility, according to Ms. Sillman, "Our primary purpose was to make sure that our patients were given after-hour access to a quality facility that was an alternative to an emergency room. We also wanted to cut back on unnecessary visits to emergency rooms.''

According to Ms. Sillman, CMIPA also wanted "to partner with an urgent care center, so that we had some say as far as the type of services that they would provide, the quality of the clinicians working there, and most importantly, that we would have the transference of medical record information so that urgent care center became an extension of our primary care offices, so care would be seamless.''

Reliant Medical Group operates the only urgent care center in Worcester at this point. That center on Plantation Street is open to anyone, patients or non-patients, and Reliant accepts a number of health insurance plans, according to a Reliant spokesperson.

The Doctors Express urgent care centers in Worcester will accept all insurance plans, according to Mr. Brennan. "Of course, any center that we open has to go through the credentialing process,'' he added.

Insurance plans"Our priority is to provide access to high-quality, affordable care that meets the diverse needs of our members,'' said Eric Hall, vice president of Network Development and Management at Fallon Community Health Plan. "Fallon is currently contracted with other Doctor Express locations in Massachusetts and plans on contracting with any new locations in Worcester.''

Tufts Health Plan has contractual relationships with many urgent care clinics across the state, according to Sonya Hagopian, vice president of corporate communications and public relations for Tufts. "We anticipate we will also contract with the new UCCs (urgent care clinics) that are opening in Worcester at which time members visits would be covered.''

Ms. Hagopian also said that care at an urgent care clinic is more cost efficient than going to an ER. "It goes without saying that in emergency situations the only appropriate care setting is the ER. But for other conditions such rashes, minor burns, small cuts, sprains, etcetera, when a primary care physician is not available, a UCC (urgent care center) can provide that care.''

As far as co-pays go, Ms. Hagopian said, those vary from facility to facility, but generally cost about the same as a visit to a physician.

Harvard Pilgrim's urgent care participation requirements include centers that treat acute care conditions only, not chronic conditions, life-threatening conditions or preventive care, according to Mary Wallan, public relations spokesperson for the HMO.

Urgent care centers must also direct patients back to their primary care for follow-up care, not perform high-end imaging such as MRIs or CTs, and be lower cost providers than emergency rooms.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has a contract with Doctors Express that covers all Doctor Express sites in Massachusetts, once the site is approved and has credentials, according to Kathleen Makela, spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield. "Member co-pays at urgent care centers are generally lower than emergency room co-pays, and the cost of comparable services performed at urgent care centers versus emergency rooms is generally less.''

Care and services

The new Doctors Express urgent care centers will provide care for pediatric allergies; sports injuries; respiratory, skin and ear infections; and pink eye treatment for children. For older patients, treatment will be given for pneumonia and bronchitis, rashes, growths, infections, headaches, back or neck pain, burn treatments or injuries due to falls.

The urgent care centers will have an X-ray and laboratory on site to test for strep, mono, glucose testing, pregnancy testing, CBCs and complete metabolic panels.

Testing can also be done for hepatitis C, syphilis, herpes, HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.

Doctors Express will also provide occupational health services for employees and employers as well as workers' compensation exams.
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Title Annotation:Business
Author:Collier, Geraldine A.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Jan 25, 2015
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