As soon as the “Providence Express Care – Coming Soon” sign went up at the Lincoln Heights shopping mall, clinic managers started getting inquiries.
People stopped by with twisted ankles, dog bites, sore throats and even bruises from a fall in the parking lot.
The clinic, which opened Tuesday morning, is the first of its kind in the greater Spokane market. Staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the clinic will help patients who need to see a provider right away but don’t require the level of care provided at an urgent care center or a hospital emergency room.
“We expect to see a lot of respiratory illnesses, urinary tract infections, strep tests – the simple day-to-day needs that people have,” said Dr. Kirk Rowbotham, chief medical officer for Providence Medical Group in Spokane.
The interest from prospective patients, which began three weeks before the clinic opened its doors, is a good indication of demand for same-day appointments in a convenient setting, said Teri Etherton, the practice’s manager.
“This is a busy, busy place,” she said of the South Hill shopping center.
The 1,500-square-foot Providence Express Care clinic is tucked between a coffee shop and a nail salon in a row of retail outlets that also includes a martial arts studio, camera store and Weight Watchers location. The clinic space previously housed a dog grooming business. It was gutted and remodeled to include two examination rooms, a small lab and storage space.
Providence has similar express clinics in the Seattle and Portland areas. The clinics provide a “relief valve” for the regional shortage of primary care providers, said Dr. Randy Volk, medical director for the Express Care practice.
“In this area, it’s sometimes difficult to get into family practice doctors. They can be booked four to six weeks out,” said Etherton, the express clinic’s manager.
As a result, many of those patients are being seen at urgent care centers, which are also jammed. Providence’s three urgent care centers in the greater Spokane area each see more than 100 patients per day.
Though the express clinic takes walk-ins, patients are encouraged to schedule a same-day appointment by phone or online. The clinic is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Patients must be at least 18 months old.
“Our goal is a limited wait time for patients,” Volk said.
Clinic staff also will treat other common ailments, such as ear, nose and throat issues; eye irritations; skin rashes; and scrapes, cuts and muscle strains. Staff members also can perform sports physicals at the express clinic and some types of immunizations.
Some simple lab procedures will be available at the clinic as well. More complicated health issues will be referred to urgent care or emergency departments. The express clinic does not have X-ray capabilities.
Express Care has flat fees for services. Appointments are $139; sports physicals are $50; and screenings and tests range from $9 to $40. The clinic accepts insurance.
“You’ll be able to know what the expense is up front,” Rowbotham said.
For people who are already Providence patients, the clinic staff will be able to access their medical records.
Providence expects to open several more express clinics in the Spokane area.
“We envision more in the future, with the number and locations still to be determined,” Rowbotham said. “That may happen toward the end of 2017.”
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