Urgent Care Fills a Pressing Need in the Hudson Valley
Mary Prenon | June 2016
Within the past year, urgent care centers seem to be popping up all over the Hudson Valley. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are now more than 7,100 urgent care facilities across the nation, including 460 in New York State.
Urgent care centers, described as a middle ground between the doctor’s office and hospital emergency rooms, treat minor or acutely rising medical conditions that may require immediate medical attention, but are not considered medical emergencies. These includes strains and sprains, animal bites, mild asthma, rashes and minor burns, ear or sinus pain, cold or flu symptoms, nausea, minor allergic reactions and minor fractures.
American Family Care (AFC) Urgent Care in Yorktown Heights, one of the newest players in Northern Westchester, opened in February at the BJ’s Shopping Center on Route 202. Located on the site of a former bank, the AFC franchise is owned by Rajesh Gupta, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, who is also the facility’s medical director.
Dr. Gupta is board-certified in Emergency Medicine and is an Associate Director of Emergency Medicine at White Plains Hospital. He holds a Doctorate in Medicine from Government Medical College in Jammu, India and received his residency in General Surgery and Emergency Medicine at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx. Dr. Gupta specializes in Emergency Medicine and is licensed in Connecticut, California, New York, New Jersey and Utah.
His wife Seema Gupta, a holistic practitioner, received her certificate in holistic medicine from the California College of Ayurveda.
The Guptas have lived in Yorktown for the past 15 years, and while Dr. Gupta continues his work with White Plains Hospital, the couple always thought about opening a convenient, affordable practice that would serve the local middle class community. “We researched everything for about a year, and then decided to open an AFC franchise,” he said. “I’m a doctor, not a business person, and the AFC model was really good with lots of support. They lay the groundwork for you.”
Based in Birmingham, Alabama, American Family Care offers 168 locations in 26 states and is the second largest urgent care provider in the country. In New York, AFC also has locations in Hartsdale and the Bronx.
This past winter, more than 300 people attended the AFC Yorktown Heights grand opening, confirming the Guptas’ beliefs of the strong needs for urgent are in the area. “First of all, the cost is way less than the emergency room, and we can take care of people in a much shorter time, “said Dr. Gupta. “They’re usually in and out in about 45 minutes.”
Urgent care is also helping to cut down on unnecessary ER visits. The Urgent Care Association of America reports the average cost of an urgent care center visit is $150—compared to the average cost of an emergency room visit at $1,354. The average wait time at urgent care is less than 30 minutes, as compared to over an hour at some emergency rooms. The Association also reports that 95% of urgent care centers call or e-mail the patient after the visit.
Of course, for those cases that do require emergency care—possible heart attacks, strokes, major bleeding or severe burns—AFC transfers patients to the closest emergency room at New York Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital. “We’re not trying to take business away from our local ER,” added Dr. Gupta. “In fact, we work together. Urgent care is playing a vital role to fill the gaps in between primary care and emergency care.”
Urgent Care actually began in the late 1970s as a response to community needs. The growth from the 70s to 80s was slow but steady. Over the next 20 years, however, the industry started to expand and gain respect as a viable place to receive quality healthcare.
The industry’s recent rapid growth over the past five years has been fueled by several different scenarios—lack of adequate primary care options, emergency room overcrowding and wait times, more physicians acting to meet community needs and patients choosing urgent care as the quickest method for treatment.
Like many urgent care centers, AFC in Yorktown Heights serves walk-in patients and those without a primary care doctor. “We’re seeing that there are not as many general practitioners today,” said Dr, Gupta. “There are a lot of different specialists and we’re finding that urgent care is really meeting the needs of those who may not have a primary care physician.”
The facility offers a full laboratory and x-rays, and can treat anything non-life-threatening, including cold and flu, asthma, back pain, joint pain, minor cuts and bruises, skin infections, minor eye injuries and even broken bones.
AFC in Yorktown Heights has 15 full and part-time employees, including four doctors, physicians’ assistants and medical assistants. AFC also accepts most insurance plans, including Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare for military personnel, veterans and their families. It’s open seven days week—Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to running AFC Urgent Care and working with White Plains Hospital, Dr. Gupta has several academic appointments, including: Assistant Professor, Emergency Medicine at New York Medical College, Valhalla; Clinical Assistant Professor, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine; Research Director Emergency Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla; and Core Faculty Member, Emergency Medicine Residency, New York Medical College.
The Guptas believe that as the urgent care trend grows, more people will continue to take advantage of this type of health care. “We’re providing a much-needed service for people living in this area, and we want to keep it as easy, quick and affordable as possible,” said Dr. Gupta. “We plan to be part of the community for a long time, and we think it’s important that our neighbors know we’ll be here when they need us.”