By James Vincent, MD, FACEP, FAAP
Medical Director, EliteCare 24HrER League City
I love a good origins story! (I’m trudging through the Alexander Hamilton book by Ron Chernow, and to my Marvel-loving children’s chagrin, I enjoyed the DC movie “Man of Steel”.) It seems like every ER nowadays – hospital-based or free-standing – claims to have fast service and great care; your insurance is probably advising you to avoid the ER; and what’s the difference between urgent-care and free-standing ER anyway? I hope to shed some light on the state of ER care in the area and will highlight some features of EliteCare’s origins along the way.
The short version is that EliteCare really does have great doctors – our doctors are or have been medical directors of large hospital ERs; one of our docs is board-certified in emergency and internal medicine with ultrasound fellowship; and I trained two extra years at Texas Children’s for pediatric emergency medicine certification. Like a hospital-based ER, we can treat any emergency, from a stroke using tPA to abdominal pain requiring ultrasound or CT imaging to setting broken bones using nitrous oxide or ketamine to infants with respiratory distress or fever. (This is probably the major difference between ER and urgent care, our ability to handle all conditions.) Since our only providers are physicians, you’ll never see a nurse practitioner or PA. We also don’t play games with your “arrival-to-provider-greet” time, so you’ll never be sent to a “results-wait” or “internal-hold” area like you would at a hospital ER. At EliteCare, you’ll arrive, fill out very basic paperwork, then go to a room to be seen by the nurse and doctor, usually within 10 minutes, to then immediately begin evaluation and treatment. Finally, we’ve figured out how to bill your insurance and use a patient advocate to minimize out-of-pocket expenses in order to make sure that your insurance pays for the majority of your visit. Now for our origins story, read on…
About 10 years ago, the idea for EliteCare was born. Our ER group was a physician-led group in Houston with about 100 ER doctors, and we staffed the ER’s at all of the HCA hospitals in Houston, (including Clear Lake Regional Medical Center). Delivery of care in a hospital ER was getting frustrating. We had all trained in emergency medicine at intense hospitals across the country from Detroit to UT Houston/Hermann. We began to feel, however, that caring for patients was becoming less important than meeting hospital and federal quality measures. The leaders of our ER group began to think, “What if we built our own ER? How would it look? How would we deliver care?” Texas was one of the few states that could even support a physician-created business. Thankfully, our leaders obtained approval from legislators and licensing bodies and proceeded to create the ideal ER. The “free-standing ER” was born, and EliteCare was one of the first. How would this “ideal” ER look?
Well, first of all, it would be nice, comfortable. Our leaders designed a beautiful waiting room, with the comfortable accommodations you might find at Pottery Barn, including vaulted ceilings, a coffee station, and a nice big television. (This was ground-breaking, since most hospital ER waiting rooms in 2008 were drab and dingy with old vinyl chairs.) Treatment rooms then would be functional, close to nursing and lab stations, but cozy and non-intimidating. Physician designers placed a central nurse’s station, encircled by the treatment rooms, but with warm wood-floor paneling. (This also was a paradigm-shift for the time.) And now ten years later? We then crafted our own formulary and medical record system, with the only requisite being ease of use and efficiency. Therefore, while ER doctors at a large hospital might be charting with Meditech or Epic, which can be time-consuming, EliteCare still has the fastest electronic medical record, giving us more time at the bedside to talk with you about your plan of care.
We would also want the best doctors. Our ER group had more than 100 ER doctors, and we had all already joined because we believed in the vision of a physician-led group. EliteCare then would only let the best of these docs, those with the greatest connections and greatest training and influence, to work at our elite facility. This unique selection pressure led to our very best docs with the most robust training and experience to staff EliteCare. Since we had all been in the Clear Lake area for many years, we already had the best connections for specialty and follow-up care.
(On my own cell-phone, I am able to immediately reach out to plastic and orthopedic surgeons, as well as GI, cardiology, neurology, and pediatric neurology specialists.) We were also able to work with local hospital administrators to make transfer to any hospital smooth and easy, to the hospital of the patient’s choice, keeping us unaffiliated.
We’d also build at the best location. After some research, our founders decided on the corner or 646 and I-45 to build our dream facility. (We consider it a great compliment and endorsement that 10 years later other large hospital groups have also invested in our “League City Medical Village” by building facilities nearby.) EliteCare League City was the first though, the founding provider of health-care in this area.
Like any good romantic comedy or Hallmark movie we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve learned a lot about insurance companies and how to help folks with their bill. We recently underwent management changes, which has helped us in many ways, including having a well-reviewed presence on Facebook and Yelp and even sprucing up our façade with new lighting. We also just finished our refurb’ with new paint and furniture.
What is the end result? EliteCare is a local League City business, but with world-class expertise. We have drawn the best doctors, nurses, radiology technicians, and front-desk and support staff to our vision of providing the best ER care possible. We’ll spend time with you, take care of every possible emergency, and minimize the time needed for charting and regulatory hassles. We even have newly-renovated observation rooms if you need intensive overnight treatment, and we have connections with a full array of specialists who can see you same or next day for complicated conditions, all of which can keep you out of the hospital. If your condition does require hospitalization, we also have connections with every local hospital and can transfer you quickly to your hospital of choice. And then when the bill comes, we have a patient advocate ready to help fight the insurance company on your behalf.
In conclusion, EliteCare is ready 24/7 for all of your all of your emergency needs. If you have any questions, from benefit coverage to health advice, call us at 281-337-7500. Our doctor or nurse will be standing by to offer personalized advice. Schedule your tour today! elite24er.com
The Affordable Care Act treats emergency health care as an essential health care benefit and it requires insurers to do the same – that means insurance companies must provide coverage for any emergency visit as if it were an in-network visit.