Skip to main content

Convenient and Urgent Care Clinics

 |  By Lena J. Weiner  
   August 30, 2017

HealthLeaders Media Council members discuss owning or partnering with convenient and urgent care clinics.

This article first appeared in the September 2017 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Mark Thompson
Regional Health
Rapid City, SD

We own urgent care sites throughout our markets. Regional Health’s flagship facility is in Rapid City, South Dakota, and we have community hospitals and clinics throughout Black Hills and western South Dakota.

We have two dedicated convenient care centers in the Rapid City market, and we have urgent care hours and extended hours in our primary care clinics in our rural markets. For some patients, this is an alternative to going to the emergency department, and it’s quite an improvement. We were wondering when we first began offering convenient care whether convenient or urgent care centers would have an impact on our emergency department volumes.

We have not seen any real drop in those volumes, but we do think that there’s always better and more efficient ways to provide care.

Like many communities, we have a shortage of primary care providers in our area, and this is another outlet that enables our patients to access care. 

I think what we’ve done in our rural communities is a good example of how smaller healthcare organizations can get involved in convenient care. I know other organizations have considered partners you would find in other markets, such as drugstores, but the partner opportunities just weren’t available to us.

So, in many cases, we simply extended the hours of existing facilities to meet our patients’ demand for nontraditional hours of clinic operation. 

Rick Nordahl
Sanford Sheldon
Sheldon, IA

We do participate in convenient care clinics through ownership. We’ve extended the hours of our primary care clinics, now closing at eight in the evening rather than at five in the afternoon, Monday through Thursday, and we are open from eight in the morning until noon on Saturdays.

We’re working on creating late hours for Friday nights, Saturday afternoons, and a portion of the time on Sunday to expand some hours.

That may take place in our hospital instead of our primary care clinic, and be serviced by our ED providers. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to get that started, but we’re looking at the regulatory requirements right now, to make sure we can do it most efficiently and effectively. We were inspired to expand our convenient care clinic hours because we need to value and respond to the patients’ time.

There’s a huge gap between being provider-driven and being patient-driven, and we need to close that gap. We need to educate our providers to service patients when the patients have time and need, versus sending them to the ED after hours.

Other options providing greater flexibility for our patients are video and e-visits via telemedicine. I think both need to be available to truly serve our patient populations effectively, whether they’re rural or urban.

Bill Munley, MHSA
Vice president of orthopedics, general surgery, and professional services Bon Secours St. Francis Health System
Greenville, SC

We participate in convenient care at every level of the continuum. We had a few choices when we first started out: Were we going to enter the convenient care field through ownership, or through a partnership? Did we want to start this now, or in three years? But ultimately, we started by opening a couple after-hours urgent care centers in two of our physician practices three-and-a-half years ago.

Last year, things were really taking off for us in the convenient and urgent care area, so we also partnered with one local urgent care center corporation that had a total of five locations. This has been going on for about a year now, and we’ve found that the clinics are a good access point to our system.

We’ve opened another clinic in a residential area, so we’re up to six urgent care centers and two convenient care centers, with plans for more in the future. We would consider everything along the spectrum, up to and including freestanding EDs, in the future. However, we have no current plans for investigating a freestanding ED at this point. 

The bigger picture: Initially, we said this interest was because we wanted to grow our volumes and partner with urgent care centers to gain patients. But now, as we get into population health and with the rise of patient-centered medical homes and ACOs, this is almost like keeping the patient in the family; you want them to go to your urgent care center.

If you’re trying to keep costs down you don’t want them going to an emergency department and racking up a big bill, especially if it’s not in your ED—you want them going back to your centers, seeing your doctors.  

Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.