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Walk-in medicenters have healthy future

Austin Regional Clinic’s After Hours Clinic, at the corner of Far West Boulevard and MoPac Expressway, has proven popular since it opened in the mid-1980s, says Tom Young, executive administrator of ARC.

ARC’s clinic is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. The clinic serves only ARC patients and is a departure from the standard walk-in clinics that cater primarily to episodic illnesses or injuries, Young says.

Young says that’s one of the draws of the After Hours Clinic – patients can be seen by their doctor, or their doctor”s partner, “so there’s more opportunity for continuity of care.”

“The thing that’s appreciated about the After Hours Clinic is people can go to this practice and not have to go outside of the practice and develop a new patient-physician relationship,” he says.

Commonly referred to as “urgent care clinics,” the number of walk-in health care centers has blossomed from a few in the early 1980s to 12,700 nationwide today, says William Wenmark, president of the National Assoiation for Ambulatory Care, based in Minneapolis.

The growth of such clinics is a direct reflection of managed care’s entrance into the health care industry, Wenmark says.

Because most of the clinics accept cash and checks, as well as managed care plans and traditional fee for service payments, they are attractive to patients who aren’t covered by insurance plans, or whose plans won’t cover certain treatments, Wenmark says.

“Were seeing that portion of the practice growing,” Wenmark says. “That portion that pays with cash, check and credit cards are actually patients with [health maintenance organization] cards. They can see us for $32 and pay it out of their own pocket.

“In ambulatory care, were affordable,” he says.

The clinics are an evolution of traditional health care, where patients make appointments to see physicians between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Wenmark says.

“That more traditional practice of medicine is important but limited,” he says. “We’re the modern version of the old country physician. We can take care of your flu, bump or bruise, or your lacerations after 5 p.m.”

 

From the January 26-Feb. 1, 1996, Austin Business Journal.       

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