Urgent care clinic could be seen as competitor to primary care

BRYAN EATON/Staff photoA ConvenientMD urgent care office opens Wednesday on Storey Avenue in Newburyport.

NEWBURYPORT — With a new walk-in urgent care clinic scheduled to open on Storey Avenue next week, hospital officials are wary, but optimistic about the kind of care its providers can offer to local patients.

ConvenientMD, an urgent care provider headquartered in Portsmouth, will open at 29 Storey Ave. on Wednesday with a welcoming celebration from 4 to 6:30 p.m., according to a press release. ConvenientMD provides medical care throughout New England by offering “fast, quality care at an affordable rate,” the release said.

The facility is reshaping the delivery of modern health care, according to Max Puyanic, CEO of ConvenientMD. He said in the release that the clinics offer an array of services, including X-rays, IVs, lab work and minor surgical procedures. The company has clinics in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

Gareth Dickens, executive chairman, said opening a ConvenientMD site in Newburyport will play a key role in the company’s mission to increase access to quality, affordable health care across the state.

“We’re revolutionizing health care and the patient experience, and the response throughout the communities we serve has been overwhelmingly positive,” Dickens said. 

When it comes to revolutionizing health care access, Anna Jaques Hospital CEO Mark Goldstein said the care offered at walk-in urgent care centers is drastically different and should not be mistaken for the high level of care provided by a hospital.

Many of these locations, including CVS’ MinuteClinic, are popping up across the country, Goldstein said, noting they could be seen as competition for primary care offices.

“It would be in a way that’s not as organized as a primary care office,” Goldstein said. “When Anna Jaques opens up a primary care office, it’s connected with us electronically. We’re able to view medical records, share oversight, notify primary care facilities the patient is at the emergency room. There are a lot of good intentions to come out of ConvenientMD, but there are a lot of unknowns for us for how we would integrate in.”

Goldstein said a transfer agreement system would be set up between ConvenientMD and Anna Jaques, noting the Storey Avenue clinic may receive a lot of patients who don’t really understand the scope of services offered there.

What clinics such as ConvenientMD are modeled after, he said, is a fit between the hospital and primary care. In the long run, it’s unclear what urgent care will look like, he said.

“I’m going in with a wait-and-see mindset,” Goldstein said. “I’m looking at how can we work together to improve the health of our community, improve access, quality and safety? (Urgent care facilities) are regulated very different from hospitals ... I think the community might be confused about what kind of care they can get there.”

Goldstein pointed out that when a patient arrives at a hospital emergency room, the individual is met by several medical professionals, depending on the patient’s condition, including anesthesiologists, general surgeons and emergency room doctors, among others, ready to handle the trauma.

For example, Goldstein said, if a patient comes in with back pain and his condition rapidly changes and requires an MRI, an urgent care facility would be unable to fulfill that need.

“In emergency room medicine, something that might start out as very minor can turn into something complex very quickly,” Goldstein said, noting hospitals are fully equipped to perform MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds. “They just aren’t going to be set up to take care of that type of (emergency).”

Although the “short-term patient” is an advantage for ConvenientMD, Goldstein said, urgent care facilities do not have access to a patient’s medical history as primary care doctors. Despite this, Goldstein noted ConvenientMD has a proven track record and he is optimistic about working together to provide care for the community.

To learn more, see www.convenientmd.com.

Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.

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