Nov. 7, 2012
By Nicholas Iovino
Visitors packed into a newly designed facility at Lawrence Memorial Hospital (LMH) in Medford last week to get their first peak at Hallmark Health’s latest brainchild, a new urgent care center.
“This is the new brainchild of the organization to meet the needs of the population and to offer more efficient care,” said Deb Cronin-Waelde, system director of emergency services at Hallmark Health, which manages LMH.
The new urgent care center aims to provide walk-in patients a quicker and cheaper alternative to the more costly emergency room visit. The facility offers treatment and evaluation for minor injuries, common illnesses, immunizations and other non-life-threatening medical needs.
Hallmark Health includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford, Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, and the Hematology and Oncology Center and CHEM Center for Radiation Oncology/MRI of Stoneham.
Associate Chief Nursing Officer and LMH Site Administrator Lori Stevens said a study recently found more than half of emergency room visits across the state were for people coming in with minor injuries or illnesses.
“We knew there was a need,” said Stevens.
The center, which opened to the public Nov. 1, will remain open 365 days a year with weekday hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekend hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Co-payments for the new center are on par with primary doctor visits, which cost about $20 to $40 for most insurance plans.
“This is going to be a great resource for the entire region,” said Hallmark Health President and CEO Michael V. Sack.
The company president and CEO said the new center would also provide one-stop shopping for patients, including x-ray and lab testing resources.
State Rep. Paul Donato joined Sack and other Hallmark Health employees in cutting the ribbon to celebrate the center’s grand opening on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
“Lawrence Memorial Hospital is moving forward in a progressive way to show we want to take care of patients as quickly as possible,” said Donato.
Donato joked he would likely end up the new care facility’s first patient.
A growing trend
Eastern Massachusetts has experienced a recent growth in new urgent care centers. The boom has emerged in the wake of health insurance companies relaxing policies that once required patients get referrals from their primary doctors before treatment could be covered.
In June, the national company Doctors Express launched a new urgent care facility in Saugus, one of 19 the company said it plans to open across the region. However, Cronin-Waelde said the new center at LMH offers something a bit different than other care centers.
“The piece we have that’s a little different is a majority board-certified nursing staff and a Patient Access Navigator,” said Cronin-Waelde.
The Patient Access Navigator, or PAN, coordinates care for patients by sending information to primary physicians, handling referrals to specialists and generally following up with the patients.
“When people come in, they’ll feel like their whole person is cared for, not just the small issue they came here for,” said Nancy Gaden, chief nursing officer for Hallmark Health and vice president of Patient Care Services.
Gaden said for patients within the Hallmark Health System, their records will be instantly updated and shared within the system. For those outside the system, their information will also be transferred to their primary doctor.
Gaden called the strategy, “transitions of care.”
“It’s a continuous flow of information to primary care physicians, which is huge as we move toward more national medical records,” said Gaden.