By Caroline Holloway
On a Monday afternoon, a mother and her teenage daughter walk into Lexington’s new and only urgent-care clinic. The all-too-familiar antiseptic smell that permeates hospitals such as Carilion Stonewall Jackson next door is missing.
Here at VelocityCare, opened by Carilion six months ago, brand new chairs line the spotless floor in the waiting room – and are vacant. The mother and daughter are immediately greeted by a smiling receptionist who hands them their paperwork and says they will be seen shortly.
The clinic, located on Houston Street, already has had a positive impact on almost 4,000 citizens in the community.
“We came here because we couldn’t get an appointment with her doctor for days, but it couldn’t wait,” said the mother, Sherri Denson.
Denson, who also works in the imaging department next door, believes the clinic is a great addition to the community.
“If you have insurance it’s a great resource. It also is much cheaper than the emergency room.” -Sherri Denson
VelocityCare was opened in May after a Carilion health assessment found that urgent care was the number one health need in the community.
The assessment highlighted the lack of alternatives to the hospital’s emergency room for the treatment of conditions that are urgent but not critical.
Having VelocityCare so close to the hospital fit with Carilion’s goal in having an urgent-care clinic to complement its primary care and the emergency department.
Hillary Deacon, who worked in the emergency department prior to becoming a receptionist at VelocityCare, believes the clinic has made a difference in the reasons for patient visits at the emergency room.
“I’ve heard from my manager how it’s cut down on waiting room times over there,” she said. “They don’t see as many sinus infections or minor lacerations.” But the clinic will transfer patients if they are having respiratory issues, she said.
Although VelocityCare is open till 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and on Sunday till 6 p.m., it is not affected by the busy hours that the emergency room often experiences after 6 p.m. and on weekends.
“People come here because they don’t have to wait,” Deacon said.
“We really don’t have busy hours,” said Collin Gray, one of the registered nurses at the clinic. “The busiest it gets is maybe three to four people waiting to be seen and the turnaround is almost always under 15 to 20 minutes.”
The difference in costs for those with who go to VelocityCare instead of the emergency room is also significant, according to Holly Ostby, the community health coordinator for Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital.
“It’s much more expensive to treat a sprained ankle at the emergency room instead of VelocityCare because those in the emergency room are prepared for worst case scenarios. They have everything on hand as well as equipment and that costs more to maintain,” she explained.
Patients with insurance are typically charged $20 co-payment for visits at VelocityCare.
“Co-pay is decided by the individual insurance companies,” said Registered Nurse Karen Koch, VelocityCare’s supervisor. “There are different tiers determined by what level of care it is. As an urgent-care [clinic] we are cheaper, but the rate is decided by your insurance company.”
According to Koch, the clinic has decreased the number of insured patients using the ER.
Ostby, the community health coordinator, also emphasized the improvements in patient care that result from reducing the volume of patients in the emergency department.
“It has helped our staff be able to spend more time with the patients that really need it, those who have emergencies and more immediate threats to their health,” she said.
There are seven other VelocityCare clinics on the website, from Blacksburg to Westlake.
“We also have put out a monthly plan to educate folks on the difference between emergency care and urgent care,” Ostby said.
The list of services that VelocityCare provides can be found on its website.
Ostby said that she and the administration anticipate a continued rise in the patient volume at VelocityCare, as well as a continued improvement on patient care in the emergency department.
The clinic has been well received.
“The feedback I’ve gotten from folks in the community has all been very positive. Everyone’s very excited to have VelocityCare here,” Ostby said.
“We get told a lot by the community that they’re glad we’re here. It’s something that had been needed for a while,” clinic nurse Collin Gray said.
Velocitycare is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sundays.