Urgent care clinic aims to ease ER overcrowding

Dr. “Siva” Naryarnan is one of three physicians at the Express Care Clinic, with Patient Care Associates Shironne Rosas and Kellen Lacayo. Photo: Linda Morales/Lincoln Hospital.

Lincoln Hospital looks to set standard for other city hospitals with initiative

Patients in Mott Haven say they are seeing shorter wait times and quicker care for common illnesses since the opening of a new express clinic at Lincoln Medical Center six months ago.

“I believe I was seen in about 10 minutes,” said Margaret Price of her visit at Express Care, Lincoln’s new urgent care facility. Price, a Belmont resident who went to the clinic with symptoms of pneumonia earlier this year, said that her wait time was much faster than she’s experienced in Lincoln’s emergency room.

Velma Jenkins, a Bronx resident who comes to Lincoln for primary and emergency services, also said getting speedy care in Lincoln’s emergency room is not easy. She has waited up to five hours in the ER before being seen by a physician.

“The wait in the emergency room is just too long, and there’s too many people,” Jenkins said. 

Lincoln’s emergency room sees over 160,000 patients a year. According to data provided by Lincoln, more than 45,000 of those visits were for non-urgent illnesses in 2018. New York’s public hospital system provides care to all patients that walk through the doors, leading to overcrowding in emergency facilities. As Lincoln is the first of NYC Health + Hospitals to open an Express Care clinic, it may be a model for other public hospitals looking to spread their resources and offer faster care.

Express Care sees patients with non-emergency illnesses including minor wounds, cold and flu symptoms and allergic reactions. It also provides follow-up care, such as suture removal or test result delivery. Lincoln is informing patients about Express Care and other non-emergency services through its Why Wait campaign, another initiative launched by the hospital with the goal of educating patients on the preventative care that may decrease major illnesses.

“They are very, very busy, and we have some very sick patients in the emergency department,” said Dr. Adrienne Birnbaum, chief of emergency services at Lincoln. “Patients with problems that are less serious are the patients that we are primarily targeting with this campaign.”

Since it opened last August, Express Care is seeing an increase in patient numbers. The clinic had over 750 visits in January 2019, an increase from the 360 patients it served last September. The average wait time to see a doctor at the clinic is 20 minutes.

While Express Care patients are increasing, the emergency room has seen lower numbers of common illnesses. Physicians are seeing almost five percent fewer patients with non-emergency sicknesses than they were a year ago. 

“It’s a way of getting them sort of to the right place at the right time,” Birnbaum said. “So that they can get the care that they need without getting in line behind people that have much more complicated problems.”

NYC Health + Hospitals also opened an Express Care clinic at its facility in Elmhurst last October, and plans to open an additional clinic at Jacobi Medical Center this spring. Hospital representatives and patients are optimistic about how the clinic will serve these communities. 

“I think it’s very beneficial for the Lincoln neighborhood that surrounds the hospital, that this service is very much needed,” Price said. “It’s going to go a long way in people going for health care sooner.”