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New Porter ExpressCare clinic a big success in its first year

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center’s ExpressCare clinic, which will soon mark its first anniversary, has wildly exceeded its boosters’ expectations and may soon increase its operating hours in order to meet growing demand for the service.
“It’s received enormous support from our community,” Porter President Dr. Fred Kniffin said of ExpressCare, which treats folks with non-life threatening injuries or illnesses who might otherwise seek out more costly and acute Emergency Department care.
“We’re improving access (to health care), which is one of our strategic drivers,” Kniffin added. “These patients are getting the same care at a lower cost, faster. That’s great stuff.”
Located in the Collins Building near the front of the Porter Campus, ExpressCare serves adults and children (age 2 and older) with medical conditions like simple sprains, minor cuts that may need stitches, sore throats, coughs, urinary tract infections, tick bites, minor fractures and sports injuries and ear aches.
The new service has freed up the Emergency Department to focus on the most serious cases, including patients experiencing chest pain, abdominal pain, difficulty in breathing, severe headaches, head injuries, all patients younger than 2 years old, diabetic complications, stroke, pregnancy complications and mental health crises.
The advent of ExpressCare has reduced patient flow at the hospital’s Emergency Department by around 10 percent since the new service launched last June, according to Porter officials. ExpressCare provides services at roughly two-thirds the cost of the Emergency Department, according to Kniffin.
“Only about 3 percent of our patients end up getting transferred down to the Emergency Department,” said Liza Eddy RN, practice manager for ExpressCare. “That lets us know that patients, for the most part, understand what we’re here to treat.”
The clinic’s staff includes Medical Director Amanda Young, M.D., primary care provider Tom Beauregard, and Physician’s Assistant Shawn May.
“This is a service we have started that is a triple win: Access, quality and efficiency,” PMC spokesman Ron Hallman said. “These three core values all manifest in the service, in providing the right care at the right time to the patient. That’s really where health care needs to go — to meet the patients where they are, when they need care, to make it convenient, with great customer service.”
Statistics provided by Porter indicate ExpressCare:
•  Had accommodated a total of 5,490 patient visits between its opening last June through March of this year. A majority of the patients have been Addison County residents, ranging from 65 percent local in July of 2017, to 79 percent this past January.
•  58 percent of ExpressCare patients have been women.
•  ExpressCare has been most popular among adults ages 20-29. The clinic has seen 893 patients in that demographic. The service has also proven quite popular with folks 30-39 (719 visits); 50-59 (688 visits) and 60-69 (695 visits). The clinic has also seen three patients age 100 or older.
Eddy is not surprised to see ExpressCare’s popularity among twenty-somethings. She noted this is a group that has largely parted ways with pediatric care, is not contending with chronic illnesses and in many cases has yet to forge a connection with a family doctor.
•  Visits have been rising steadily since the clinic opened last June, when it attracted 227 patients. Visits bumped up to 643 last July and have never been lower than 543 in any given month.
•  Middlebury College students have made up around 4 percent of ExpressCare’s client base each month.
“We’re a much better place for college students to come for their illness symptoms,” Eddy said, citing as an example the recent flu outbreak.
ExpressCare has benefited from its central Porter Medical Center campus location.
“One of the reasons why it’s working is because we’ve had so much collaboration with hospital departments, with our primary care (physicians) and our specialists — those in Porter and outside,” Eddy said. “We’re on the phone every day with a primary care provider making sure they’re comfortable with our plan, on the same page.”
Porter’s technicians have pitched in with lab drawings when the clinic is busy.
“We couldn’t do this without them coming up to help us relieve some of the burden,” Eddy said of the lab.
“A reason it’s so successful is everybody wants it to be, so they’re helping us out, too.”
Eddy cited some specific examples of how ExpressCare has come through for patients in need.
There was a tourist traveling locally who had forgotten some important, chronic care medications at home.
“We were able to call that pharmacy in the Midwest and figure out what he needed and get him on his way,” Eddy said.
Then there was the case of a honeymooner who had forgotten an inhaler for a hiking trip.
When a gastrointestinal bug swept through a wedding party, ExpressCare triaged them to the right places for IV fluids and other appropriate care.
“Helping these people has been really great,” Eddy said.
ExpressCare is currently open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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