Urgent Care Centers Grow in NJ

By Christie Duffy

Doctors Express has been open for just four years. First time patient Jesse Krantz says convenience is key for him when it comes to seeking medical care.

“If the ER was packed or something like that or I thought I would get treated quickly, then I would definitely consider coming here,” Krantz said.

The center’s lead physician says 50 to 60 patients will hop up onto the table here a day. They see patients for everything from a strep throat to X-rays for broken bones. One of a franchise, they say they’ve had steady growth here since opening. The doctor in charge says it’s because they offer more cost-effective care than many traditional outlets. And they offer extended hours, seven days a week.

“Most of what we hear is, ‘We just can’t get in. We called this morning and the wait is a week out and you guys were here, you were convenient, you were open.’ And our wait time, generally we’re talking lest than 30 minutes,” said Doctors Express Paramus Lead Physician Dr. Sonia Chatha.

An industry marketing group, Urgent Care Associates, says urgent care facilities like this one are expected to grow in the state by 18 to 20 percent this year. And that’s on top of last year’s 15 percent gains.

“It really reflects the idea that more and more health care is shifting outside the four walls of a hospital,” said Hackensack University Medical Center President and CEO Robert Garrett.

Hackensack University Medical Center is also jumping into the urgent care market. They plan to open as many as 10 urgent care centers across northern New Jersey in the coming years. They’ve partnered with City MD, which already has dozens of urgent care locations in New York. They say the Affordable Care Act has really changed the conversation and the industry focus to ambulatory care.

“One of the goals of ACA is to provide access to care and insure more individuals but also to reduce the cost of health care. And whether it’s retail health care or urgent care, it’s gonna cost the health care system a lot less than if you went to an ER,” Garrett said.

But will HUMC’s new urgent care centers offer the same quality of care as a traditional practitioner?

“It will be staffed with all physicians who are emergency medicine certified,” Garrett said.

A survey of emergency health care workers shows nearly 90 percent believe they’ll see an uptick in emergency room visits, despite health care reform. HUMC says they haven’t seen this realized. But they say that’s why it’s all the more important that their new urgent care doctors plan follow-ups with patients to avoid trips to the emergency room.

HUMC expects their first urgent care location to open in Bergen County by the end of this year.