A new health care clinic designed to give people an alternative to hours-long waits in the emergency room moved into Mountain View last week.
Direct Urgent Care, a burgeoning company based in Berkeley, opened up a new facility at 1150 West El Camino Real on Jan. 22. The clinic, which touts no or short wait times for patients, handles most primary care services and offers x-rays, blood tests and minor orthopedics, and has an on-site pharmacy.
Caesar Djavaherian, a co-founder of Direct Urgent Care, said he used to work in an emergency room that was perpetually over-crowded and treated patients poorly. People who feel sick can try to schedule an appointment with their primary care doctor, he said, but it can take several days to get an appointment.
"When you feel sick, you shouldn't have to wait a week to see your doctor," Djavaherian said. "You're either going to end up very sick and in the hospital or you're going to be fine."
Slow service is not exclusive to Berkeley either. Local urgent care wait times in Mountain View, including at El Camino Hospital and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, can be upwards of six hours, according to Djavaherian.
Emily Crocker, who works at the new Mountain View facility, said it's been a slow start so far with about 10 patients each day but it's getting busier every day. She said popularity will build up as more people discover the new location, at the busy intersection of Shoreline Boulevard and El Camino Real, as an alternative to visiting their primary care doctor.
"They have a high patient volume, so we can sort of act as a middle man," Crocker said. "If you're sick and you just don't want to wait, you can come to us."
The clinic can't provide all of the services an emergency room can including blood work or handling serious heart and brain conditions, Crocker said but it can handle a large majority of the patients who typically visit an emergency room. Roughly 80 percent of emergency room services can be dealt with at an urgent care facility, Djavaherian said.
One of the challenges is balancing the popularity of the clinic with its stated goal of low wait times, Djavaherian said. The first clinic in Berkeley, which opened in 2013, expected to attract about 10 patients each day, but ended up with between 40 and 50 patients a day instead. The clinic was much busier than they had anticipated, he said and much busier than they wanted.
In order to keep wait times low, Direct Urgent Care will be opening a new facility nearby in Oakland in April this year. If Mountain View's clinic goes down the same route, Djavaherian said, they will consider opening a second facility on the Peninsula as well.
The entire facility is more or less paperless, with company-owned iPads primarily used to fill out the usual paperwork, Djavaherian said. Patients can get "in line" virtually through the clinic's web page, and receive a text message when it's time to show up for an appointment.
"We think that the time element is often times most important for the patient in the health care world," he said.