Retail health clinics are growing in popularity by offering patients more and faster comprehensive care, which is starting to upend the normal healthcare delivery system.
They succeed by bringing services where the consumers are, as opposed to patients going to their doctor’s office.
The clinics are also open longer hours than normal doctor offices, and on weekends.
They also provide speedy service that includes in some cases immediate appointments, notification of wait time by cell phone, eliminating lengthily waits in an office, and same-day test results.
According to Accenture, a business management and consulting firm in San Francisco, there will be more than 2,800 retail clinics across the U.S. by 2018, 14 times more than a decade before.
Founded by two emergency room doctors and based in San Francisco, Direct Urgent Care has four locations in Berkeley, Mountain View, Oakland and is opening an office by the end of the year in Vacaville. All are in or near retail centers.
The first office opened in Berkeley in 2013.
“The first day we thought we’d see about 15 patients. We saw more than 70,” said Caesar Djavaherian, president and chief medical officer. “We realized we had something to introduce to health care systems, and solutions to make the (office visit) experience better.”
Patients visit retail clinics for many of the same issues they would see a primary care physician for- broken bones, cuts, colds, and weekend warrior injuries.
Direct Urgent Care can treat about 80 percent of ER visits, and also test for pregnancy, kidney function, urine, and other blood tests. New technology only requires one or two drops of blood, and analysis and results are available within two minutes, Djavaherian said.
“The main focus is how quickly can we answer patients’ questions and resolve the issue the same day. We do everything on the spot,” he said.
Typically, trips to the retail clinic are no more expensive than regular doctor visits, depending on the patient’s urgent care co-pay, which most insurances have, and it is cheaper than the ER co-pay.
Direct Urgent Care partners directly with established hospitals within the community, and has access to their resources.
If a patient needs more serious treatment, like a CAT scan, the clinic can expedite a trip to radiology at the hospital.
The company also offers virtual visits and home visits.
Direct Urgent Care has most recently partnered with NorthBay Healthcare, which will be opening its first urgent care retail medical office before the end of the year at the Nut Tree Plaza in Vacaville.
The 4,000-square foot, $1 million clinic will be located adjacent to the vintage Nut Tree train and carousel. It will also be a neighbor to Amici’s Pizza, Spice Thai kitchen and Blake Austin College.
“We intend to adopt an Apple-Store approach, creating a high-tech retail medical office — paperless registration, iPad workflow, accelerated lab work and x-rays within minutes,” said Steve Huddleston vice president, public affairs.
NorthBay Urgent Care will be open 10–12 hours a day, seven days a week, and accept most insurance plans, including Medicare and Tricare. In many cases, patients will pay only the typical co-pay, and for some, nothing at all, Huddleston said.
Expectations are 30–40 patients per day will be seen for low-acute illnesses.