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For-Profit Clinic Offers Alternative For Health Care

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Video published February 4, 2011 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: If you can pay, you can be seen by a doctor at a new urgent care clinic in Santee. KPBS' Kenny Goldberg has this report.

There's a new player on the local health care scene. Doctors Express is a national chain of for-profit urgent care clinics. It's opened its first San Diego County location in Santee. The clinic promises quick, convenient care without an appointment. KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg has the story.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

THERE'S A NEW PLAYER ON THE LOCAL HEALTH CARE SCENE, DOCTORS EXPRESS IS A NATIONAL CHAIN OF FOR PROFIT URGENT CARE CLINICS THEY OPENED IN SANTEE THEY PROMISE QUICK CONVENIENT CARE WITHOUT AN APPOINTMENT. WE HAVE THE STORY.

MOST CLINICS ARE LOCATED NEAR HOSPITALS OR MEDICAL OFFICE BUILDINGS. DOCTORS EXPRESS IS IN A STRIP MALL. IT'S STEPS AWAY FROM A RESTAURANT.

WE HAVE A TYPICAL EXAMINE ROOM.

THEY HAVE A COMPLETE LABORATORY.

STREP THROAT, FLU, WIDE ARRAY OF OTHER TESTS.

EXTRA MACHINES AND UNLIKE RETAIL CLINICS AND DRUG STORES, THEY ARE STAFFED BY PHYSICIANS.

WHAT BRINGS YOU TODAY. INSTEAD OF WRITING ON A PAPER CHART. THE DOCTOR MAKES NOTES ON A COMPUTER PAD. THE GOAL AT DOCTOR'S EXPRESS IS TO EASE THE PRESSURE OFF OF HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOMS.

THEIR JOB IS TO SEE THE LIFE THREATENING THINGS AND NOT BE BURDENED WITH THE SORE THROATS AND MINOR THINGS THAT WE CAN HANDLE HERE THE OTHER THING WE CAN FILL IS THE PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR THAT IS BOOKED TO SEE SOMEBODY FOR AN URGENT PROBLEM.

WELL MY REGULAR DOCTOR IS ALWAYS BUSY, YOU HAVE TO KIND OF MAKE AN APPOINTMENT IN ADVANCE, AND THE SECONDARY DOCTOR THAT I GO TO DOES NOT WORK ON MONDAYS AND THAT LEAVES ME WITH A NURSE PRACTITIONER THEY ARE AND I PREFER TO SEE A REGULAR DOCTOR. SHE DID NOT HAVE A APPOINTMENT AND THAT IS NOT PROBLEM HERE.

IT WAS NICE AND IT WAS CLEAN AND I HAVE BEEN TO OTHER URGENT CARES AND THEY ARE ALWAYS WILL REALLY BUSY AND YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR HOURS AND HOURS AND I CAME HERE AND GOT IN QUICKLY.

THE OWNER OF THE CLINIC SAID THAT HE CHOSE THIS SPOT BECAUSE OF ITS POPULATION LEVEL AND INCOME AND LACK OF SIMILAR FACILITIES IN THE AREA. $108 IS THE PRICE FOR A VISIT. THEY ACCEPT ALL MAJOR INSURANCE PLANS AND THERE'S A DISCOUNT FOR PEOPLE THAT PAY CASH. THE UNINSURED HAVE TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE.

IF IT'S AN URGENT SITUATION WHERE THEY ARE BLEEDING, WE WILL DO WHAT WE CAN FOR THEM AND SEND THEN ON THEIR WAY. BUT, WE ARE NOT REALLY IN A PLACE WHERE WE CAN PROVIDE FREE CARE.

DOCTOR'S EXPRESS CAN TURN AWAY PATIENTS THAT CANNOT PAY. HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOMS ARE REQUIRED TO TREAT EVERYONE.

SCRIPPS MERCY EMERGENCY ROOM SAID THAT OVER CROWDING HAS BEEN A HEADACHE. THAT HAS LONG BEEN A BIG PROBLEM FOR EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY, WE HAVE PATIENTS COMING OUT OF OUR EARS, WE HAVE MORE PATIENTS THAN WE CAN FIT.

MANY OF THEM DO NOT NEED TO BE IN AN EMERGENCY ROOM. A STUDY BY THE RAND CORPORATION ESTIMATES 27% OF ER PATIENTS COULD BE TREATED AT A DOCTOR'S OFFICE OR URGENT CARE CLINIC. IT'S POSSIBLE THAT CLINICS LIKE DOCTOR'S EXPRESS COULD KEEP THOSE LEVELS DOWN FOR THEM. BUT IF THAT HAPPENED HERE ER WOULD STAY IN BUSINESS.

WE WOULD WITH STILL HAVE PLENTY OF TRAFFIC AND UNINSURED PATIENTS THAT HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO AND PLENTY OF PATIENTS WITH MAJOR EMERGENCIES, IT WOULD MAKE MY PRACTICE OF MEDICINE NOT AS INTERESTING. NOT AS VARIED. NOT AS FULL. BUT WE WOULD CERTAINLY STILL HAVE PLENTY OF CUSTOMERS.

OKAY THIS IS A TRIAGE AREA.

PAUL SAID THAT DOCTOR'S EXPRESS IS NOT TRYING TO STEAL BUSINESS FROM ANYONE, THEY ARE NOT EQUIPPED TO HANDLE LIVE HANDLE LIFE --TO HANDLE LIFE THREATENING CONDITIONS.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY IS NOT UNDER SUPPLIED IN TERMS OF HEALTHCARE, IT IS QUITE RICH. THERE ARE GAPS AND AND OPPORTUNITIES THOSE ARE THE AREAS THAT --AND THOSE ARE THE AREAS THAT I'M INTERESTED IN. KENNY GOLDBERG KPBS NEWS.

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