Beaumont to invest $30M in dozens of urgent care centers

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Aerial view of Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. Beaumont Health said Wednesday that it is planning to invest about $30 million in 30 urgent care centers throughout Metro Detroit with Atlanta-based WellStreet Urgent Care.

Beaumont Health said Wednesday that it plans to invest about $30 million in urgent care centers in Metro Detroit by the end of 2019.

The Royal Oak-based health care system is partnering with Atlanta-based WellStreet Urgent Care to jointly operate 30 Beaumont Urgent Care facilities. The new venture would create 150 new jobs for medical care providers and support staff, some of whom the system is hiring immediately.

Beaumont executives said the new centers come in response to patients and employers requesting trusted and convenient access to health care at lower costs.

"There are many urgent centers today in the Detroit Metro area," said Carolyn Wilson, Beaumont chief operating officer. "What we hear from consumers is that they don’t have the same level as confidence as they would if there was a Beaumont name on the building. We want to get quality care closer to home with a lower cost platform and provide an opportunity to connect with a primary care physician. That's critically important for wellness and prevention."

According to Beaumont, about 40 percent of urgent care patients do not have a primary care physician. The urgent care centers would be able to connect those patients with physicians in Beaumont's network and set up appointments there. Additionally, at least 30 percent of emergency room visits could be treated by urgent care centers, which would save on health-care costs.

A handful of Beaumont Urgent Care locations will open before the end of the year. Beaumont said it would announce those within the next few weeks. Its new venture is in the processing of selecting facilities. 

Lee Resnick, WellStreet chief medical officer and senior vice president of business development and strategy, said those locations will be in highly visible retail locations and select medical office buildings near busy emergency centers such as Beaumont's, large employers and high-traffic, commercially dense areas.

"Patients as consumers are looking for on-demand access points to health care," Resnick said. "When you are choosing a care provider for an episodic illness or injury, you're not thinking of going to the hospital or 'where’s my doctor’s office?' or they don’t access health care that frequently. They’re used to going to retail destinations where they might shop for groceries."

The centers will be meant to service patients with coughs, sore throats, skin irritations, mild intestinal illnesses and fevers as well as minor lacerations and orthopedic injuries. Providers will be able to access a patient's Beaumont electronic medical record for coordinated care.

Unlike many urgent care centers, those in the Beaumont network will have an X-ray and lab on premise for less complicated diagnostics. Sites won't have a pharmacy, though some prepackaged medications such as short-term antibiotics will be available.

Resnick said urgent care centers are open 12 hours a day seven days a week every day of the year with one or two medical care providers each. Patients will be able to make appointments online or through a new app, though walk-ins are welcome. Typical visits are complete in less than 50 minutes.

WellStreet has experience in operating large urgent care networks that are integrated with health systems, though Beaumont is its sole partner in Michigan.

"We’re not the first urgent care center in Michigan; you might recall seeing one, but you don’t know who is behind the door," Resnick said. "This is another way to increase confidence for the patient and that level of supervision and oversight and quality."

Beaumont joins other Metro Detroit health systems working to bring care closer to  patients. Earlier this year, Henry Ford Health System said it is planning at least two new outpatient medical centers and two expanded medical centers. Detroit Medical Center plans to open at least two more MedPost urgent care centers in 2019.

"Beaumont, I think, is the well-deserved market leader in southeast Michigan," Wilson said. "The response is really for those we serve."