It’s just after midnight on a Tuesday, and you’re up for the fourth time since putting your 3-year-old to bed four hours earlier. As she complains for the umpteenth time about her ear pain, you realize that no amount of medicine in your house is going to resolve this ear infection. Now, you’re faced with a tough call – wait it out overnight so you can run by the pediatrician’s office in the morning, find a local pediatric urgent care place that’s still open or risk the local emergency room.
Waiting it out isn’t always an option for parents, especially when an ear infection is keeping the whole house awake overnight, and a trip to the ER can last several hours and cost hundreds of dollars. Urgent care centers, particularly those equipped for treating kids, are your best bet for non-life-threatening emergencies. Short wait times, licensed medical professionals and quick diagnoses make after-hours clinics a good choice for unexpected illness or injury. Plus, some locations offer 24-hour care.
Pediatric urgent care has evolved over the last few decades. Once considered a last resort among those in the medical field, after-hours clinics have quickly become the go-to treatment option for weary parents who need fast results. Even major hospitals have adopted walk-in clinics as part of their operations, and urgent care facilities are expanding across the United States. In the field of pediatrics, doctors-turned-entrepreneurs are looking for even more innovative ways to deliver urgent care to children.
A Major Milestone for PM Pediatrics
On July 19, PM Pediatrics announced that it had treated more than 1 million patients since the opening of its first location in 2005. This is a major milestone for the pediatric urgent care chain, and it represents a shift in the health care industry as more patients are turning to after-hours walk-ins to solve their medical problems. PM Pediatrics is one of the largest pediatric urgent care providers in the country with 19 locations spread across New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Co-founded by a doctor and a management consultant who specialized in health care, the operation started as a way to provide better acute medical care to children. PM Pediatrics is just one example of the growing trend toward using walk-in clinics in lieu of the ER room. These centers can treat a variety of issues that are common to childhood, including:
- Fever and dehydration
- Fractures, sprains, broken bones and other minor injuries
- Asthma, rashes and various skin conditions
- Cuts or wounds that need stitches
There are thousands of urgent care practices throughout the United States, but not every clinic is specialized to meet the needs of younger patients. Pediatric urgent care facilities are specially designed to care for children, from infancy through young adulthood. And while regular urgent care centers typically don’t treat infants younger than three months, pediatric walk-ins are equipped to handle newborns. Pediatric physicians, specialized medical equipment and child-friendly environments make pediatric urgent care centers ideal for young patients.
On-Demand Pediatric Care
Innovation in pediatric care is ongoing and nationwide. In Texas, a startup company is transforming the way that parents gain access to after-hours care by using a model based on the earliest forms of medical intervention: at-home visits. The company is called PediaQ, and it was founded by a doctor with 25 years of experience in health care.
Using an app on their phones, parents can summon a nurse practitioner to their homes for urgent pediatric care – treatments for everything from cold and allergy symptoms to strep throat and ear infections. After diagnosis and treatment, a nurse practitioner will follow up with the patient and the family’s pediatrician the next day to make sure that things are improving. It’s a completely on-demand service that takes urgent care to the next level, and it’s expanding throughout the state of Texas.
PediaQ launched in the spring of 2015, serving the suburban communities of Frisco and Plano. Already, the company has seen tremendous growth. As of June 2016, the company plans to expand into the major cities of Houston, Dallas and Austin with the backing of prominent investors. This year alone, PediaQ has raised $4.5 million for the expansion. Major insurers like United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna have signed on for the program, enabling patients with insurance to get covered treatment from the comfort of home. Since the program started last year, PediaQ has served nearly 3,000 patients.
PediaQ’s hours of operation are late nights and weekends, the same hours that pediatric urgent care centers are open. The company is currently looking into expansion into area hospitals, and it may offer on-demand urgent care to adults in the future as well.
Texas isn’t the only state that’s thinking outside the box when it comes to at-home care. Major cities in California and New York have also been experimenting with on-demand medical services. There’s a definite need for on-demand pediatric care. Visiting an urgent care clinic in the middle of the night can be especially challenging for parents of toddlers or multiple kids. At-home visits take away some of that frustration, making access to medical care even more convenient.
Collaboration with Hospitals
The success of PM Pediatrics, programs like PediaQ and other innovations in the medical field are encouraging for the urgent care industry as a whole. Around the country, hospitals are jumping on board the after-hours bandwagon by developing their own systems for handling non-life-threatening emergencies. One example comes from New York. MASH Urgent Care and UBMD Pediatrics, both medical centers located in Western New York, announced in July 2016 that they were creating a joint venture to offer urgent care to children in a program called Children’s Fast Track.
Patients will be able to visit with pediatric specialists from the Women & Children’s Hospital at an urgent care location, and the hours are particularly attractive for busy parents: 9am to 9pm every day of the week, every day of the year. This joint project will open up access to more patients throughout Western New York. The new pediatric urgent care unit will be able to take on 25 to 30 children a day, combined with the 40 adult patients that the MASH urgent care facility already serves each day.
Pediatric urgent care gives parents peace of mind when it’s the middle of the night and they need answers fast. Adults are more likely to wait out their symptoms because they can, but treating childhood illnesses – even seemingly innocuous ones – is sometimes a matter of urgency. As more hospitals, private practices and entrepreneurs look for ways to offer innovative after-hours treatment options, pediatric health care will improve throughout the United States.