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QUICK CARE: Shannon Sock, Mercy CFO and executive vice president; Jon Swope, president of Mercy Springfield Communities and the central region; and Todd Latz, CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care, are at the clinic opening.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
QUICK CARE: Shannon Sock, Mercy CFO and executive vice president; Jon Swope, president of Mercy Springfield Communities and the central region; and Todd Latz, CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care, are at the clinic opening.

Welcome to retail center health care

Speed and convenience are stressed with newer urgent care centers

Posted online

With the recent growth spurt of urgent care centers in the Springfield market, the days of ill patients waiting a seemingly interminable amount of time in doctor’s offices might become a thing of the past.

At least that’s part of the intent for newer centers, such as the Mercy-GoHealth Urgent Care clinics that opened earlier this month. In the case of both, the centers at Battlefield Market Place, 900 E. Battlefield Road, and Magers Crossing, 2150 W. Republic Road, convenience for patients extends beyond the medical treatment options. The centers are located in high-traffic shopping centers that include dining, shopping and exercise options – all within a short walking distance. At Magers Crossing, for instance, the clinic is sandwiched between Great American Taco Co. and Glam Boutique Nail Salon.

While one could get vaccinated, participate in a yoga class and grab a meal afterwards without having to get back in their vehicle on any given day, the primary concern for Mercy and GoHealth when developing the centers was finding popular growth areas in town, said Dr. Robert Cavagnol, chief physician officer for Mercy Hospital Springfield.

“I don’t think we specifically targeted that,” Cavagnol said, regarding the other amenities contained within the shopping centers.

Rather, he said leaders targeted easily accessible sites with a lot of people working in the vicinity.

The two Springfield clinics between Mercy and GoHealth Urgent Care are the first of multiple centers that will open this year in the Midwest. Additional locations in Mercy’s markets, including the St. Louis area, Oklahoma City and northwest Arkansas, are set to roll out as early as summer, according to those involved in the Mercy-GoHealth collaboration.

Although Mercy considered other companies for partnership on the new clinic model, discussions were most fruitful with Atlanta-based GoHealth – a process Cavagnol said extended for more than a year. He said the urgent care provider, which operates more than 80 centers on the East and West coasts, conducted a needs assessment of the Springfield community. GoHealth identified a half-dozen “hot spots” in town, Cavagnol said, eventually leading to the selections on East Battlefield Road and West Republic Road.

“They were very strategic in that process,” he said. “It was a very analytical process.”

GoHealth creates the physical space for the center, including the outline and design, as well as providing clerical and support staff, Cavagnol said. The health care providers and nurse practitioners are all Mercy personnel, he added.

Both Mercy and CoxHealth have offered urgent care clinics in their health systems for years, but with the newly opened Mercy-GoHealth centers, each now has alternate options for providing patient care.

CoxHealth first entered the retail-based clinic market in March 2009, reaching a total of five clinics in Ozarks-area Walmart stores by July 2011. All continue to operate staffed by CoxHealth employees, said David Taylor, corporate vice president at CoxHealth. An additional walk-in clinic, Hy-Vee Quick Care, opened in early 2016.

Taylor said CoxHealth needed to look into the retail market to improve access for patients and price points. He said the health system had strong physician support, which was vital.

“We wanted to be in Walmart, the big box, high volume and high visibility,” he said, adding the one-stop shopping convenience was also critical for locating inside Hy-Vee.

The convenience factor is enhanced, Taylor said, by those utilizing Save My Spot, a newer CoxHealth service allowing a patient to select a location and time, fill out a an online form and wait from home until the appointment, bypassing the waiting room altogether.

No additional retail-based urgent care clinics are currently in the plans, Taylor said, adding there’s “seemingly been a demand for anything that patients want now.”

“I want it when I want it. It’s the whole concept of in-demand,” he said.

Aside from Walmart and Hy-Vee, CVS Health also offers retail-based walk-in clinics in Springfield, with four locations. Called MinuteClinics, the facilities located in CVS stores are staffed by nurse practitioners to provide family health care. They’re open seven days a week with no appointments necessary.

Although Walgreens, another national retail pharmacy chain, operates several health care clinics in Missouri, none are located in the Springfield area, according to the company website.

“The goal is to make it optimal for patients,” Mercy’s Cavagnol said.

Locating in existing shopping centers was one of those considerations, he said, as constructing new buildings ties up a lot of money in brick and mortar.

“We always want to be good stewards,” he said.

With the two centers in Springfield opening within days of each other this month, Cavagnol said Mercy intends to be intentional about any future locations opening locally. He said any additional centers would be considered only after studying the success of the existing ones for patients and staff alike.

“We’re interested in learning from GoHealth,” he said. “We think it’s going to be a great partnership.

“This is to supplement, not replace, what we already have,” Cavagnol said.

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