Two local health clinics providing innovative cost-savings options for patients
IDAHO FALLS – When you get sick or need medical care, visiting a doctor can be expensive. It’s also often confusing to navigate your way through the healthcare system trying to understand how it works and what options are available.
But doctors do understand that, and in the last several years, a couple of clinics have opened in eastern Idaho with the goal of simplifying the process and providing inexpensive medical care. One of the clinics is in Idaho Falls and the other is in Driggs.
Sterling Urgent Care in Idaho Falls
Sterling Urgent Care introduced a business model to eastern Idaho five years ago that very few people in the area know about.
“Everybody keeps trying to fix the healthcare market, but the thing we haven’t addressed is the consumer,” Sterling Urgent Care CEO Scott Brown tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Consumers have the McDonald’s mentality, Brown says, meaning they want it right now at a good price and the best doctor who will not just eliminate pain, but fix the problem.
Sterling Urgent Care is Brown’s response to the consumer mentality and the current healthcare climate. Sterling offers a membership-based healthcare model for consumers, which is owned cooperatively by a group of business owners that employ locals. Currently, about 130 employers invest in the clinic.
“The employers are the ones that control this. They sit on the board and invest money in it,” Brown said. “We’re able to drive down costs because they determine the pricing for that membership. By owning it, employers become less fickle and it’s not such a race to the bottom every time they’re disgruntled with something they didn’t like at the clinic. They’re more engaged in solving the problem, rather than just hopping over to another competitor.”
Here’s how the membership works. For $50/month, an individual has unlimited access to their clinic. For a family of four, it’s $100/month and $10 for every additional family member after that. With this membership, every doctor visit is free.
“If you feel sick 30 days in a row, you can walk through our door 30 days in a row, get through the front desk and see a provider without having any co-pays,” says Shannon Patterson, a business representative.
There are additional costs attached to services like X-rays and generic medication. If these services are used, the price is around $15. They also offer online check-in to help you avoid long wait times and telemedicine, which allows you to get a diagnosis over the phone without ever leaving your house.
Patterson says they can handle 96 percent of everything you would ever go to a doctor for. For the other four percent of items they cannot handle in-house, Patterson says they have case managers that help match your insurance plan with a provider. If you don’t have insurance, they help negotiate cash pay rates so that you get the best deal possible.
“The best part of my job is, when I explain this to people, they look at me like I’m crazy, like this can’t really be true or this can’t really be this cheap. And then when they realize there’s no catch, it really is this simple, they’re in shock and they don’t understand why this isn’t happening more frequently,” says Patterson.
Taylor Hale, an employee with Sterling Urgent Care, says they have seven clinics throughout Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Despite being open for five years, very few people in eastern Idaho know about them and the services they offer.
“This clinic, on average, sees about 35 patients a day, seven days a week, but the majority of those are insurance-based patients. The majority of our members come from the Burley area and Logan area,” Hale says. “The thing with east Idaho is people just don’t know about the membership model. But it’s something we offer and are expanding.”
Brown says people pay for a similarly priced cellphone plan or streaming service because they don’t feel they can live without it, but they don’t feel the same way about healthcare. That’s one of the challenges the clinic faces, he says.
“It’s never a necessity until suddenly you’re hurt and then it’s like ‘What in the world is going on? This world is screwing us,'” says Brown. “What we’ve found after five years is that, with that membership, people are more willing to come in when they feel sick, instead of waiting to take care of their issues.”
Sterling Urgent Care is located at 740 S. Woodruff in Idaho Falls. It is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If you’re interested in learning more about Sterling Urgent Care or becoming a member, visit the company’s website or give them a call at (208) 542-9111. You can also call Shannon Patterson directly at (651) 235-1401.
The Cache Clinic
DRIGGS — The Cache Clinic is a retail medical clinic designed to help people reduce their medical bills.
“We opened this clinic in response to having a 29 percent uninsured population in Teton County, Idaho,” Ann Loyola, a spokeswoman for Teton Valley Healthcare, which runs the clinic, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We’re trying to help people avoid emergency room visits and expensive clinic visits that they don’t have insurance coverage for.”
Cache Clinic is a cash-only medical clinic that offers quick care for minor medical problems at a flat, per visit fee. The cost for an exam is $50.
If additional services are needed outside of the exam, such as a lab test or medication, there is an additional cost. Loyola says the clinic offers those services at a lower cost than other clinics. They do not bill insurance companies, but if a customer has insurance that covers those services, they can choose to get them elsewhere.
“If someone comes in and they need care that is beyond our retail clinic services, we don’t charge people that $50. We tell them this is what we can do for you now and you need to go to a full-service clinic,” says Loyola.
In these cases, Loyola says they help people find the most affordable care available and share the patient’s medical information with whomever the patient chooses to visit.
The clinic is only open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Loyola says it’s because they’re trying to cater to customers who get sick after hours.
“What we’re trying to do is capture that time when most clinics are closed and our commuters are coming back from their jobs and need a place to stop in and get something checked out,” says Loyola.
Since opening in 2016, Loyola says the response has been positive and in the last six months she’s seen an increase in business.
“It’s taken a while for people to understand what a retail medical clinic is and how it can help them reduce their medical bills,” Loyola says. “I would say that it’s caught on and people are understanding its use and using it more. Since the fall of 2018, we’ve seen a rather large increase in visits.”
Regarding why the clinic is only open four hours a day, Loyola says it’s based on community need. Now that they’re seeing higher numbers, she says they’re in a better place to reevaluate whether there is a need to be open longer.
“We really have to have our community tell us what they need. That first year it was questionable how broad our operating hours should have been,” she says.