On a recent weekend, as with many weekends, I found myself in a different city with my son's soccer team. The team was playing a tough game, and Jack (not his real name) was flying down the far sideline and went up for a head ball. A player from the other team did the same thing and their heads made an attempt to violate the law of physics that two objects can not occupy the same space at the same time.
Both young men crumpled to the ground in pain. Jack was moving but when the coach got to the far sideline, he immediately waved for me to come across the field. When I got there there was blood streaming from a laceration in his eyebrow. We wrapped his head with a tightly-tied tee shirt and held pressure to the wound.
The fields were at the Washington University Academy in downtown St. Louis. Two years ago, we would have had no choice but to go to an urgent care in the suburbs or to a downtown hospital emergency department.
But I was well aware that my friend Sonny Saggar, MD had opened a new urgent care in downtown St. Louis. Prior to opening, Sonny had shared his vision of a downtown urgent care center for the people of St. Louis. As with many startup urgent care centers, Sonny faced some significant hurdles:
- Inept Consultants: He tried one of the Practice Velocity® startup imitators--that offer all-in-one startup help--that is "just as good as" Practice Velocity. What he found out, however, was that the consultant had minimal experience in opening a single (and somewhat unsuccessful) urgent care center in a far-away state.
- Inexperienced Billers: The all-in-one startup company vaunted it's urgent care focus, but the head of the company had been a hospital executive and had no significant urgent care experience. The billers he had hired had no urgent care experience.
- Wrong EMR: The all-in-one startup company advertised its one-of-a-kind, "first true urgent care EMR" software. Yes, the software was one-of-a-kind, but Dr. Saggar discovered that it was cumbersome and impossible to use efficiently in real-life urgent care situations. NOTE: Although other companies might advertise that they offer an "urgent care EMR," the Practice Velocity VelociDoc® EMR is the only EMR made in urgent care centers by urgent care professionals from the beginning. In fact, VelociDoc is so specific for urgent care and occupational medicine that we do not even recommend it for any other type of practice.
- Tough Demographics: Prior to his opening, we discussed the difficulties of urgent care centers located in downtown in major cities, especially cities such as St. Louis that have modest populations, living in the downtown area. I told him that it would be tough, and I would recommend that he try a different location for his first center. Sonny loves a challenge, and he has a passionate commitment to the city. He later shared with me that my words of caution made him even more determined to succeed. An succeed he did. Upon our visit, we find that he has even expanded his services to include the only primary care practice in downtown St. Louis.
Now, back to the soccer injury.... We jumped into our cars, I Google-mapped "downtown urgent care st louis" on my Palm Pre, and ten minutes later Jack was receiving care from the excellent staff at Downtown Urgent Care. Check out the cool graphics in his logo. As you can see, they are located right on the street a lighted sign right over the window. The waiting room is ample, but feels even larger because of the high ceilings.
An hour later, Jack was eating lunch in the car on the five-hour drive back to our homes in Chicagoland.
Thanks Sonny, for your persistence in making sure that the people of downtown St. Louis (and the visitors to the city) have access to quality urgent care service. Jack's stitches are out, he is fully recovered, he scored a goal yesterday, and his parents are very thankful to Sonny and his excellent staff at Downtown Urgent Care in St. Louis.