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Ortho On Demand

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Patients with a broken arm or a sprained ankle often have only one option if they want immediate care: the emergency room. So when leaders at Winter Park, Fla.-based Jewett Orthopedic Clinic, a seven-facility orthopedic practice, recognized a significant rise in emergency room wait times across their region of Florida in 2004, an idea soon materialized. That idea came to fruition in March 2006 when the clinic opened the Jewett Orthopedic Convenient Care Center, a specialty walk-in facility that treats patients with broken bones, sprains, strains or lacerations while also providing follow-up care and treatment for workers' compensation injuries. The center also houses a pharmacy and offers physical and occupational therapy services. Jay C. Pearce, the Jewett Orthopedic Convenient Care Center's executive director, says combating ER wait times that clock in at up to six hours was a major incentive for establishing the center. "In a private orthopedic practice, the No. 1 customer service issue is being able to provide an appointment for a patient in a timely manner," says Pearce. "Many of our patients complain about going to urgent care centers or emergency rooms and having extremely long waits and very expensive copays-and then coming to us, anyway." Opening the center posed a financial risk for Jewett in a competitive region saturated with physician offices. But the new clinic has seen considerable demand thus far, Pearce says, adding that the facility's unique niche position in the market has helped distinguish it from hospitals and other competitors. "There isn't another orthopedic physician office that has walk-in availability in our area. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons tells us that we're the first one they've heard of in the United States, which I'm finding hard to believe," he says. An AAOS spokesperson, however, could not confirm that the Jewett facility is the only one of its kind.The $2 million facility includes two physicians and three physician assistants on staff, along with 20 exam rooms. In addition to an extremity MRI, there's also an orthotic fitting department for patients who need braces. The convenient care center has generated interest from officials at other organizations, according to Pearce, who says such specialized walk-in facilities could be a future trend. "I think you'll begin to see this sort of thing more and more in specialties as the public gets used to that level of service. It will follow the course that you're seeing with other after-hours and walk-in type services for pediatrics and primary care." -Matt Rogers