BRATTLEBORO -- The founder of Brattleboro's new urgent care center, Clear Choice MD, said he expects to work closely with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and other primary care doctors in the region.
Clear Choice MD, which is opening its new office this week on the roundabout in north Brattleboro near Exit 3, offers urgent, non-life-threatening medical care. The office offers X-rays, a pharmacy and lab tests, and the staff can treat cuts, broken bones and minor sickness.
The office is open seven days a week and takes all insurance.
Dr. Marcus Hampers, who is opening Clear Choice MD centers across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, said he has held two meetings with BMH officials.
He said while relations can sour between for-profit urgent care centers and the local hospital, so far communications have been good between Clear Choice MD and BMH.
"Some hospitals feel threatened, but BMH has been exceptionally friendly to us," Hampers said. "We've really hammered out how we can best refer patients to the hospital who need more care."
BMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kathleen McGraw also said the hospital and Clear Choice MD have established a good line of communication as the urgent care facility prepares to open up this week.
"What they are providing is urgent care, and one of the key things for us is to make sure we are providing the access to primary care," McGraw said.
McGraw did say that BMH officials met after Hampers announced that he would be bringing Clear Choice MD to Brattleboro.
The hospital has changed how patients access their doctor's schedules and it is now easier and quicker to find out when an office within the BMH system might have an opening.
The new centralized service also makes it easier for patients to move their records among doctors.
The hospital also made changes in its service hours to give patients more options when trying to see a doctor within the BMH system
"Anytime there is something new in the community it is an opportunity to look at what you do and figure out how to do it better," McGraw said. "There has been some opportunity for internal collaboration, and it has created a moment for us to stop and reflect how we are serving our patients."
The Brattleboro office is the fourth Clear Choice MD in Vermont, with a fifth in Burlington set to open soon.
There are five in New Hampshire, including one in Keene and one in Scarborough, Maine.
There are about 15 employees in the Brattleboro office.
Clear Choice MD is able to see patients, in most cases, right away, and Hampers said a visit will cost $100, and services will never exceed $250.
There are thousands of urgent care centers across the country, though the model is relatively new to New England.
Hampers has been a staff member at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center for 20 years.
He said he decided to start Clear Choice MD after seeing how crowded emergency departments had become with patients who could receive their care much quicker and at less cost.
"Hospitals are inherently inefficient," said Hampers. "It's the nature of the business. They have lots of overhead that we don't have. They don't have the same incentives that we do to provide more efficient, less costly, care."
Across New England, and particularly in southeastern Vermont, increasingly there is a shortage of primary care physicians.
"What prompted me to form this company was the tremendous need," Hampers said. "Particularly in Vermont, there's a shortage of primary care providers, and its only getting worse."
Hampers stressed that urgent care should not be used to take the place of primary care, but should instead augment the service a patient receives from his or her doctor.
And he said it is important to remain close to the local primary care community.
"We do not intend to disrupt the continuity of your care," Hampers said. "We will provide your doctor with everything that happened here so that next time he or she sees you, they are up to date on everything that happened here."
Hampers said he first reached out to BMH to introduce himself and his company when he decided to come to Brattleboro, and the hospital scheduled a meeting recently between the two organizations.
And he said he expects to continue the dialogue as business grows in his Brattleboro office.
"They're helping us make that a very seamless process and ultimately the patient benefits" Hampers said. "It's always been my feeling that we can collaborate rather than being enemies. We all benefit."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.