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2015-08-21 / News

Geisinger walk-in clinics find a new niche in State College

MBC PBC Regional Business Analyst

Tracy Tracy STATE COLLEGE, PA - In 2013, Geisinger’s Careworks opened two urgent care clinics in the State College area – one at the Best Buy shopping plaza on North Atherton Street and another 13 miles away next to the Weis supermarket in Bellefonte.

What makes this unusual is that Geisinger already had two large primary care and specialty offices in State College at Scenery Park on the east side of town and at Grays Woods on the west side. It also has a primary care office in Bellefonte.

Geisinger’s State College Careworks is located directly across the street from a MedExpress urgent care clinic and about six blocks from Dr. Paul’s Clinic, another walk-in facility on North Atherton.

On the other side of town on East College Avenue, about a 15-minute drive on 1-99, are two other walk-in clinics -- Advanced Urgent Care and Nittany Urgent Care. Why would Geisinger’s Careworks enter such a saturated market?

The Geisinger Careworks in State College opened in 2013 along with locations in Bellefonte and Lock Haven. 
Photo courtesy of Geisinger Careworks The Geisinger Careworks in State College opened in 2013 along with locations in Bellefonte and Lock Haven. Photo courtesy of Geisinger Careworks “We have two reasons to be in State College,” said Steve Tracy, associate vice president, care continuum service line, Geisinger Careworks.

“The first is to support our primary care physicians at Grays Woods and Scenery Park, which have pediatrics and family medicine.

“When those primary care doctors aren’t available, Geisinger wanted to provide its patients with quality medical care in an alternative setting where they could walk-in at their convenience.

“The second reason is that State College is a unique market, because it surrounds the main campus of the largest state university in Pennsylvania. Students come to Penn State from all over the country and from other countries, and students who live off campus don’t have a family physician in town, so they tend to use urgent care.”

With five urgent care clinics, what would make someone choose Geisinger’s Careworks over the others?

“Geisinger patients prefer our walk-in clinic, because we have access to their electronic medical records, and they’ll receive the same quality care they’re used to getting at their family doctor’s office.

“For the students, we’re available to them and so is MedExpress across the street, but we’re banking on the fact that Geisinger’s excellent service and reputation will help our student patient volume.”

Careworks is based on an advanced practitioner model, where the healthcare services are provided by physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who have collaborative agreements with Geisinger physicians who review their patient charts daily, and with whom they can consult at any time.

MedExpress is based on a physician- led model where each clinic has a doctor and his or her support staff, which consists of registered nurses, radiology technicians, and others.

“We pride ourselves in giving excellent service to maintain our business, and we do a lot of advertising to the students to make them aware of that fact.

“Geisinger has a very robust marketing team, and they do a great job getting our name out there in the community and also on the web where students spend a lot of time.

“The challenge in urgent care is that you really have to think like a retailer, which is different than traditional healthcare. You need to keep your name out there so that when a student needs urgent care, they will remember your clinic’s name, even if they can’t remember where they saw it.

“For example, we did a big Spikes baseball campaign in State College last year, and we’re doing it again this year.”

The marketing campaign has been successful, the State College Careworks clinic gets about 10,000 visits a year, and in a college town, the academic year runs only nine months.

“The urgent care market came on very strong in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and then it died out, and I think that was largely because people didn’t understand the model.

“Now urgent care providers have learned to market themselves better, and people are used to seeing urgent care clinics in their communities and at pharmacies and at supermarkets, so they’re more accepted than they had been.” .

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