Changing Urgent Care: WellNow Urgent Care provides ease of treatment

DAYTONA NILES/NNY BUSINESS
Wellnow Urgent Care in Watertown.

BY: Olivia Belanger
The first WellNow Urgent Care in Jefferson County, located on the site of the former Friendly’s restaurant, began accepting patients on June 12. 
 

    The former restaurant, 1233 Arsenal St., was torn down to make room for the new center after it was purchased by Cameron Watertown LLC, Skaneateles, in October for $685,000, according to records at the Jefferson County clerk’s office.  

    WellNow Urgent Care, founded in 2011 and formerly known as Five Star Urgent Care, treats non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses seven days per week, with no appointment needed and online check-ins available.  

    Employers can also partner with WellNow for occupational medicine programs.  

    In addition to treatment for injuries such as sprains, strains, colds and the flu, the facility is also providing on-site X-rays, lab testing and physicals. Patients are treated on a walk-in basis but may also check in online or view wait times on the homepage of the company’s website.  

    The first facility opened in January 2012 and continued to branch from there. The facilities have moved all over the state from Jamestown to Ithaca and now up in the north country. WellNow Urgent Care can now be found in more than 30 communities.  

    Jenilee Foster, a physician’s assistant and one of the regional leads for WellNow, said they are excited to welcome their Watertown patients.  

    “We are very excited to be in the community and we are very willing to be of service to it and treat all the local people in the area,” Ms. Foster said. “When we go into the new communities, it’s a matter of creating that positive experience.”  

    Ms. Foster said the company is a step above your typical Urgent Care, with customer satisfaction at the top of the priority list.  

    And it shows. When you walk into WellNow, you don’t get the feeling of a clinical office, but rather an inviting space. The waiting room is stocked with goodies such as a red and blue slushy machine, baskets of snacks and a TV.  

    Ms. Foster said these “patient delighters” are all part of their customer service.  

    “Our customer service is our number one thing we provide on,” Ms. Foster said. “I feel like it makes the patient feel comfortable and makes them feel like it’s a friendly place or comfortable. We also want kids to feel comfortable and familiar.”  

    Once you’re inside the actual clinical space, the sense of “hominess” carries through. Each patient room is equipped with its own TV and the inner waiting room has a full PacMan machine for free play.  

    This atmosphere is especially important for an urgent care center, Ms. Foster said, because they want people to be comfortable bringing their children or family there rather than going to a primary care provider, when the injury allows.  

    “There’s no reason to go to the ED or to the primary care doctor when you can have the patient feel better in a couple of days, rather than waiting to see the doctor there,” Ms. Foster said.  

    Over the last two decades, urgent cares have been popping up drastically, shifting the healthcare market.  

    The influence of the urgent care industry has and will continue to push healthcare toward a service model that acts and looks more like corporate world, answering yes to the demands of healthcare consumers as their needs change, similar to what WellNow Urgent Care is trying to promote.  

    According to Consumer Reports, the number of urgent care facilities increased from 6,400 in 2014 to 8,100 in 2018, with another 500 to 600 expected to open. Some 24/7 urgent care centers function like satellite emergency rooms, and incur similar costs, while other centers simply charge copays.  

    An urgent care typically is a money-saver for patients, according to a 2016 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The study found that emergency room treatment costs were about 10 times more, about $2,200, than in an urgent care center, about $168, regardless of diagnosis.  

    With this overlap that urgent care centers have with family medicine and emergency medicine, they are typically staffed accordingly with at least one medical physician or specialist, as well as a physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or radiologist available to see patients any time the facility is open.  

    The type of patient is also changing as healthcare organizations continue to improve.  

    Not only do they expect to receive quality care, but they also want convenience and improved digital interaction for routine activities.  

    According to research findings by NTT Data Services, nearly two-thirds of consumers expect their healthcare digital experience to be more like online retail.  

    But the expectations go beyond the digital interaction. Patients expect convenience, upfront estimates, a wireless connection while in the clinic and access to telehealth services.  

    “It really is about the convenience for people,” Ms. Foster said.  

    To learn more about WellNow Urgent Care, visit their website at www.wellnow.com.