memorial hospital from left with sign

A shot of Memorial Hospital in North Conway. (RACHEL SHARPLES PHOTO)

CONWAY — On Jan. 3, Memorial Hospital’s walk-in clinic, currently located next to the emergency department, will become part of the hospital’s emergency department.

“When people need medical care now, the Memorial Emergency Department is ready to help,” says Memorial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Dunn. “But when the need is not as urgent for our patients, a visit to the primary care office is often a better choice for the patient and relieves some volume from the emergency department,”

Examples of these less “urgent” needs, Dunn says, are rashes, sore throat, ear ache, or a urinary tract infection. “The patient can call the primary care office and receive guidance as to whether a same-day appointment is appropriate or the patient should go to the emergency department.”

Memorial primary care patients now have access to more same-day provider appointments for health needs that could have meant a visit to the hospital’s emergency department or walk-in clinic.

The extra appointments at the hospital’s Mount Washington Valley Rural Health Primary Care are the result of the addition of several providers as well as enhancements to its appointment schedule.

The extra appointment slots are designed for Memorial primary care patients who would have otherwise presented to the emergency department or walk-in clinic for care and are available during regular primary care office hours. After hours, patients should still present to the emergency department.

Moving some of the same-day patient visits from the emergency department to primary care will also help with patient flow in the emergency department, says Memorial’s Emergency Department Director Dr. Joseph Williams.

The hospital has experienced a rise “in the acuity and complexity of patients presenting to our emergency department,” adds Williams, leading to discussion of how best to use emergency department space, team members and resources. Two treatment areas, previously assigned for less urgent or “walk-in” patients will now be assigned to emergency patients.

“This change allows us to focus more attention on the most urgent patients, decrease wait times, improve capacity and help us better serve emergency patients.”

Dunn and Williams note that if care is needed immediately, patients should seek care in the emergency department.

Non-Memorial patients must still go to the emergency department for urgent and non-urgent health needs whenever their primary care provider is not available.

According to Dunn, Memorial has added to the number of its primary care providers to meet increased demand and adjusted their scheduling system to make more appointments, including same-day appointments, possible for their patients.

“We’ve seen an overall increase in new patients and patient visits in our practice, especially in pediatrics.”

He says the hospital recently welcomed two pediatricians to the staff.

In addition, for patient billing, a primary care visit often costs less than an emergency visit, especially when Memorial is an out-of-network hospital for the patient’s insurance carrier. There is also the added convenience for Memorial patients of having a scheduled time to see a clinician.

“Depending on the emergency room volume and urgency of other patients, the wait could be anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour. A Memorial patient calling primary care for a same-day appointment will know the time they will be seen.”

Memorial established their walk-in clinic several years ago as a way to serve its primary care patients when those patients were not able to access same-day care due to lack of appointment availability.

Additional appointment opportunities combined with a rise in the acuity and complexity of patients presenting to the emergency department led to discussions of how best to utilize space, team members and resources.

Memorial patients can call (603) 356-5472 to schedule a same-day appointment for primary care or for more information.

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