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ER group sets sights on other markets

By Jo Lee Ferguson
July 26, 2015 at 4 a.m.

 Doctors Nick McLain, left to right, Chris Kwon, John DiPasquale and Stan Upchurch talk  Tuesday  about the new emergency room centers the group will bring to East Texas at a meeting at Leading Edge Medical Associates office in Longview.

A group of Longview physicians building a freestanding emergency room in Longview now has plans to open such facilities in Tyler, Nacogdoches and Texarkana.

Locations in smaller markets also are under consideration.

Leading Edge Medical Associates, the independent group of emergency medicine physicians who staff Good Shepherd Medical Center's emergency rooms in Longview, Marshall and Kilgore, is joining with Houston-area doctors Chris Kwon and Nick McLain to open Excel ER locations across East Texas. Kwon and McLain already are involved in such operations elsewhere.

In Longview, the group earlier this year began working to build a freestanding emergency room on Loop 281 across from Longview High School. The doctors said they knew months ago that several groups were considering opening freestanding emergency rooms in Longview. The group decided to be "proactive" and seek a partnership with the one that was the best "cultural fit" for the group, said Dr. Stan Upchurch, managing partner of the emergency medicine physicians group with Dr. John DiPasquale.

Growing the business

After choosing Drs. Kwon and McLain and the Excel brand for Longview, they also decided to look at other East Texas cities, Upchurch said.

Freestanding emergency rooms provide what Kwon described as "concierge" or "boutique" care in emergency rooms separate from hospitals but that can provide the same services as traditional emergency rooms. He said they provide that care, though, in a much different environment and a shorter amount of time.

"It looks like a four-star hotel lobby as opposed to the lobby of an emergency room," he said. "I would venture to say that the culture of the patient care we provide sets us apart more than anything else."

Everything is based on what's right for the patient, he said, from the way patients are greeted when they arrive to the time it takes to see the doctor and how quickly and efficiently they're served.

He estimated from 70 percent to 80 percent of patients at freestanding emergency rooms can be treated and sent home.

"We try to do that as efficiently and quickly as possible, and I think, from our experience, people love that type of a boutique emergency medicine experience, that concierge emergency medicine experience, and they come back to that customer service," Kwon said.

Patients who need additional care may be transferred to a hospital.

Different experience

There are places, Kwon said, where it's normal for a trip to the emergency room to take hours, with just a small amount of that time actually spent with a doctor.

"In my mind, I don't care if you truly have an emergency or not," he said. "A layperson who goes to the emergency room should be seen emergently."

The freestanding emergency rooms the group is offering will provide care that "is full of empathy" and compassion and that is efficient.

"They can come in at anytime and be seen with little or no wait time," McLain said. "Most of our patients are out the door in less than an hour. ... We're offering a better experience for their health care and their friends and families."

While the group is considering some locations in smaller cities in East Texas, McLain noted a certain population base is needed for a freestanding emergency room to be viable. It takes "significant resources" to open one of the emergency rooms, he said, explaining that the facilities don't have just a doctor and one office area. They include trained emergency room nurses and radiology technicians 24 hours a day, imaging equipment and a full lab.

Kwon said it is a "blessing" to be working with LEMA.

"We have some physicians who have the same values, same ethics, in terms of how we want to run our business," he said, adding that was the biggest factor that drew him and McLain to the joint venture with LEMA. "LEMA has a fantastic reputation. They're strong, fiscally sound. They're run fantastically as a physicians association. I thought Excel ER fit perfectly with that culture of excellence."

He said patients should experience that same "culture" regardless of which Excel ER location they might use.

"Obviously, we're trying to brand ourselves for that type of excellent care," he said.

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