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New walk-in clinics offer access to convenient, affordable care

In early 2015 Partners HealthCare will launch a new venture with MedSpring Urgent Care to open and operate a number of urgent care clinics in eastern Massachusetts over the next five years. The new venture will be known as Partners Urgent Care.

Urgent care centers offer a cost-effective and time-saving alternative for conditions that are not severe enough to require an emergency room visit. Across the U.S., more than half of all emergency room visits are for non-emergency conditions that could be safely treated in an urgent care setting. In addition, many emergency departments are overcrowded. In response, hospitals and physician groups are opening urgent care centers to offer much-needed care during weekday and off-hours. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are more than 9,000 urgent care centers in the U.S. today and their numbers grow by about 300 centers per year.

“Through our urgent care centers, we can improve community access and offer affordable health care alternatives closer to people’s homes,” said Partners Chief Clinical Officer Gregg Meyer, MD, MSc. “With MedSpring Urgent Care, Partners will be able to offer high quality urgent care services that are focused on the needs of our patients in eastern Massachusetts.” In the first year, Partners expects to log about 20,000 patient visits. When all of the clinics are up and running, up to 250,000 patient visits could be expected.

The new urgent care centers will have physicians on-site from 9 am to 9 pm daily, including Saturdays and Sundays. Patients will be seen on a walk-in basis or they can schedule advance appointments. The urgent care sites will ultimately link with Partners eCare, facilitating coordination of care between the sites and other physicians involved in a patient’s care. Care at Partners Urgent Care will be covered by all public and commercial insurance plans.  Physicians practicing at Partners Urgent Care will be hired and credentialed by the Partners/MedSpring joint venture. The credentialing process will meet the same standards employed by MGH, BWH, and other Partners hospitals.

Partners already owns and operates four urgent care centers in Foxboro, Danvers, Waltham, and at MGH in Boston. These and other centers like them provide walk-in, non-emergency outpatient care for a wide range of medical conditions such as asthma and allergies, flu-like symptoms or abdominal pain, minor trauma including sprains and lacerations and other general common conditions. Many urgent care centers also provide lab tests, digital X-rays, vaccines and physicals.

Urgent care centers are not emergency departments and do not receive ambulances. Patients who come to an urgent care center with an emergent, unstable or serious medical condition will be evaluated, triaged and transferred to a local hospital via a 9-1-1 call.

The new urgent care centers “are very much in keeping with Partners’ population health management strategy to improve care delivery and access, increase efficiency and reduce health care costs,” said Meyer.

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