Clinics aim to alleviate patient load at traditional emergency room facilities
Kyle has seen more than 700,000 square feet of medical facilities open since 2007, city officials said. Those facilities have created more than 1,700 medical jobs for positions other than physicians.
Texan Urgent Care, with offices in Bastrop and Waco, will add to the health care landscape when it opens a third location in Kyle across from Seton Hays Hospital. The clinic is slated to open in November.
Urgent care clinics are set up to help patients with medical issues that need to be treated immediately, such as small lacerations, broken bones, asthma attacks and allergic reactions, which can clog emergency rooms.
Cindy Sexton, vice president and CFO for St. David’s HealthCare, which operates a clinic in Kyle, said the facilities are built in areas that lack access to health care.
“At the time we opened up the one in Kyle, Kyle didn’t have any emergency services,” Sexton said. “So that was the intent of them, to place emergency-type services in areas that didn’t have ready access.”
Dr. Jesse Steven Rodriguez is the director of the Texan Urgent Care in Kyle.
“There is not an urgent care clinic in Kyle,” Rodriguez said. “The St. David’s Urgent Care is actually a Level B emergency room, so it’s actually billed as an emergency room. It’s quite a difference in cost.”
Texan Urgent Care said that in most cases, they can save patients and their insurers up to 70 percent of the total cost compared with an emergency room visit for the same issue. They said this is because of the lack of overhead needed to run a small urgent care facility.
Sexton said that because insurance companies are involved, the math is not so simple.
“If you’re just looking at a pure charge, our charges at our urgent care [facilities] are much lower than at our emergency rooms,” she said. “[But] everybody has different health care benefits, so it’s very dependent on what your insurance plan is, what your cost is going to be.
“Some insurance plans process our urgent care centers with your urgent care copay and that’s, again, based on your defined benefit plan. Some process it as an emergency room visit. If you don’t have insurance, then we have self-pay discounts that we apply,” she said.
Sexton said that at a freestanding urgent care clinic, patients receive one bill. Regulations for Type B emergency rooms require the facilities to give patients two bills.
“You get your physician’s component of the bill, and you’re going to get your facility side of the bill. We try to make those about the same as you would get if you were in a freestanding facility,” she said.
Typically, independent urgent care clinics have their own set of charges split into copays with a patient’s insurance, or without insurance at full price.
Regardless of cost or billing differences, both urgent care clinics and Type B facilities have patient wellness among their top goals.
Rodriguez is a board-certified emergency room physician, and his staff is also certified for emergency room care. The Kyle clinic will have CT scanner and MRI capability.
“We studied the area and found a big gap in coverage,” Rodriguez said. “We can see the walking wounded, and it can really take the burden off the emergency room at Seton from the 1,200 or more visits they see.”
The St. David’s facilities have defibrillators and a crash room to take care of heart attacks or strokes, and many have CT scanners and MRI capabilities as well.
“We use the same doctors that staff our emergency rooms. It’s the same physician group, so it’s board-certified emergency room physicians that staff them,” Sexton said. “We have all of the necessary equipment to stabilize anything that comes in.”
Other entities in Kyle are encouraging the industry’s growth.
“We have been hand in hand recruiting medical with [City of Kyle] Economic Development, and we’ve seen tremendous growth in medical [facilities],” said Ray Hernandez, executive director of the Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce.
Hernandez said there are still some challenges for providers, such as a lack of sufficient space and a disparity in physician-to-patient ratios in the area.
According to the 2009 Hays County Health Care Assessment, Hays County had a physician-to-patient ratio of 1:1,971, a greater divide than the Capital-area average among counties.
That gap is narrowing now, but Hernandez said the chamber will continue to encourage providers to move in.
“When Seton opened, they estimated 750 emergency room visits a month, but after the first month, they had over 2,000, and that’s been the average,” he said. “Numbers like that are a strong indication that there is a need.”
Diana Blank, director of the Kyle Economic Development Department, said having more options for health care providers is always positive.
“Having another alternative from the Seton ER will get the wait times down,” Blank said.
She said it also gives people a different, local option when thinking initially that they need urgent care, and then needing to be moved to emergency room care.
“For example, if you need more than urgent care at St. David’s, they take you to Austin instead [of to Seton],” Blank said.
Sexton said that decreasing patient wait times is another primary goal for the area’s urgent care facilities.
“People get in and out very quickly. It’s so much better than going and waiting in a long line in an emergency room when you can get treated by the exact same physicians in these urgent cares,” she said. “If I’m choosing where I’m going with my family, I’m going to these [urgent care clinics] because I can get in and out. We get the most positive feedback on, ‘I was in and out, and everybody was so nice.’”