ClearChoiceMD, an urgent care facility aimed to improve access and quality of medical assistance while reducing costs, opened its Lebanon doors Thursday. Visits will last just an hour each and cost about 10 times less than trips to the emergency room, founder Marcus Hampers ’89 said.
The center accepts almost all insurance plans, including the Dartmouth student health insurance plan and those provided by Cigna, clinic administrator Brenda Ellis said.
Self-pay visits to the center cost a flat rate of $100, with an additional $25 to $50 added if X-rays, lab work or a particular procedure, such as stitches, are performed, Hampers said. He added that no visit to the center would cost patients more than $250.
Hampers worked as an emergency room doctor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for 20 years.
The center provides urgent care, treatment of non-life threatening and episodic illness and injury. This differs from primary care, where chronic sickness and disease prevention are managed.
ClearChoiceMD doctors will not see patients over a long period of time for chronic conditions, Hampers said.
Hampers noted, however, that patients can request an appointment with as specific doctor or provider at the center.
Stuart Grande, a postdoctoral research fellow at The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, which studies how to transform health care delivery across the country, said this type of “concierge-based” patient care mimics a national trend of providing health care at lower costs.
Corporations such as Walmart, Walgreens and CVS have increased their market share by incorporating clinics into their stores, he said. At CVS “minute clinics” or Walmart care clinics, patients can purchase the services they want at affordable prices.
ClearChoiceMD opened its first center in Vermont in June, and now operates three other centers in the state. In New Hampshire, the company has a center in Portsmouth, and two more are scheduled to open in Belmont and Keene next month.
“I’ve been practicing at Dartmouth for 20 years and I’ve said to myself one hundred times, ‘Why don’t we have an urgent care center?,’” Hampers said. “And now I’m tickled to be the one providing that service now.”
DHMC has urgent appointment departments at its Nashua and Manchester locations, but not in Lebanon.
While some hospitals in the state have opened urgent care centers, he said these centers charge “hospital-like” prices.
DHMC spokesperson Deborah Turcott did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
ClearChoiceMD’s Lebanon center will compete with DHMC, Grande said, as it will offer some of the same services as DHMC but at a lower price.
Hampers said he believes the relationship between DHMC and ClearChoiceMD doctors need not be “adversarial.” DHMC doctors are very interested in doing what is best for their patients, Hampers said, and if they are overbooked, they can send patients to him.
Hampers noted that the location of the laboratories in each building and the check-out process have been streamlined, which will promote productivity.
President and CEO of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce Paul Boucher said that aside from the CVS “minute clinic,” Lebanon does not have anything similar to an urgent care center. He said he thinks the center will do well, particularly due to its affordability. He added that the cheaper flat rate might appeal to individuals without insurance but who need to see a doctor.