DANVERS — When the $144 million Mass General/North Shore medical complex opened on Endicott Street a few years ago, it was envisioned as a place to go for doctor’s appointments, day surgery and treatments, lab tests, X-rays and other outpatient services.
Last week, North Shore Physicians Group launched a new kind of walk-in service called North Shore Urgent Care in a 4,000-square-foot office suite in the lower level of the medical center.
The service is designed for people who need to see a doctor right away, but who are not suffering a life-threatening emergency. No appointment is necessary. And while it’s not an emergency room, there are emergency room physicians, as well as family practice doctors on staff.
It’s seen as a new model of care designed to head off emergency-room visits, a move that is being encouraged under the Affordable Care Act to make health care more efficient and cost-effective.
“We went into this because we had a large number of patients who were part of our primary-care base that were looking to have same-day sick visits or were looking to have primary care,” said Steven Kapfhammer, president of North Shore Physicians Group. The doctors group also noticed many of its patients were heading to the emergency department for non-life-threatening conditions, “which is a very high-cost setting.”
So, for the past two years, North Shore Physicians Group, which is part of the North Shore Medical Center in Salem and the Partners Healthcare system, ran a pilot urgent-care program for its patients who needed sick-day visits. It wound up treating 30 patients a day.
The clinic proved to be in such high demand that they decided to create a stand-alone, seven-day-a-week facility that is set up just for urgent care, treating patients from the community at large, and not just from its member doctors.