Everyone knows patients with a sprained ankle, sore throat or upset stomach typically have longer wait times in hospital emergency rooms since patients with life-threatening ailments receive priority treatment.
However, when people are unable to see a primary care physician in a situation that’s not life threatening, they need another healthcare option. Industry research points to as many as 84 percent of the people who go to an emergency room do not have true medical emergencies. Beyond the extended wait times, these people may also pay as much as six times more than necessary for their care.
Bridging the gap between life-threatening situations that merit an emergency room visit and those that are non life-threatening but too urgent to wait for the next available appointment, you’ll find the immediate care centers of the hospitals of Community Healthcare System providing reliable healthcare that’s patient oriented, convenient and cost effective, as well as close to home.
“Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart offer immediate care services in four convenient locations,” said Rich Buchler, Community Healthcare System Regional Director of Physician Practices. “With healthcare professionals dedicated to providing patients with prompt attention and timely diagnoses that get them back on the road to being well again as soon as possible, the immediate care centers offer many of the same services of an emergency department – comprehensive imaging, diagnostic screening and laboratory testing – without the higher wait times or higher costs generally associated with an emergency visit.”
This important link to quality care was first introduced as part of the Community Healthcare System with the Community Hospital Outpatient Centre St. John in 2001. Then, when the community asked for a walk-in clinic, the St. Catherine Hospital Hessville Family Care Center was opened.
“Over the years we have seen a growing need to make healthcare more easily accessible to everyone,” Buchler explained. “Our immediate care centers offer everything you get in your doctor’s office with the convenience of extended hours and open appointments. All Community Healthcare System immediate care centers are supported by the medical expertise of our Care Network physicians with specialties in family medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics and more.”
These physicians are closely affiliated with the supporting hospitals and provide quality treatment for many illnesses and injuries, including broken bones, sprains, ear infections, sinus infections and sore throats, allergic reaction, fever or rash, animal bites, minor burns, congestion/coughing, school or work physicals and stomachaches.
“I was a family practice physician for four years before I started in urgent care five years ago and really fell in love with it,” Dr. Carrie Shaffer, DO, who started working at the St. Mary Medical Center Valparaiso Health Center when it opened in February, said. “We’re already seeing repeat customers, and when people come in, they know me.”
Open twelve hours daily from 8am to 8pm, the Immediate Care Center in Valparaiso is typically busier first thing in the morning, according to Dr. Shaffer.
“It’s now becoming a huge trend, and we’re definitely seeing the demand for these services,” she said. “In most cases, everything we need is right here – lab services and x-ray services. On an average day we see around 20 patients. On the busiest day so far, we treated 32 patients.”
“Our people are here for the right reasons – to take good care of our patients,” Buchler added. “You should never have to deal with anyone who is not nice when you’re not feeling well. We always want to know how you were treated – from the first person who greeted you to the last person you encountered on a visit with us – that’s the key.”
“When we take care of our patients, whether it’s at an immediate care center or the hospital, we all share the same records. It’s seamless,” Dr. Shaffer explained. “For patients already in the network, we have instant access to their complete history, and new patients get established so their information is available if or when any follow up is necessary.”
“There’s no better chain of communication,” Buchler said. “There are a number of benefits to getting established with someone who knows your history, starting with not duplicating tests or lab work. What we’re seeing is a large decrease in reimbursements, and everyone is growing in this direction.”
Most recently, the Community Hospital Schererville Outpatient Center opened just five miles from the established St. John facility, where as many as 80 patients are seen daily.
“The public has embraced the convenience and affordability of our full-service immediate care centers,” Buchler explained. “Our newest facility, the Community Hospital Outpatient Center in Schererville, offers outpatient testing, physician practices and immediate care to better serve the residents in southern Lake County. While the typical wait time at one of our immediate care centers is less than one hour, there may be times when you will need to wait longer. Since our Schererville Immediate Care Center opened, we now can offer patients in St. John the option of going just a few minutes away for faster service. The bottom line is that our professional medical staff always takes the time needed to provide comprehensive care at our immediate care centers.”