PrimaCare Medical Centers: Dr. Don Dillahunty, President & CEO

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PrimaCare opened its first center in the Dallas area in 1979. The urgent care network grew and was acquired by a hospital system in the late 1980s to serve as a referral source.  In 2000, the same system chose to divest itself of the clinics and the entity was purchased by a group of PrimaCare physicians.  PrimaCare Medical Centers is now one of the largest urgent care networks in the Dallas metropolitan area with a primary focus on acute illness and injuries that are not life or limb threatening. All eleven centers are open seven days a week and no appointments are necessary.

Serving Patients with Courtesy, Convenience and Compassion

“Our mission is to provide quality healthcare to the patients in the communities we serve with courtesy, convenience and compassion,” says Dr. Don Dillahunty who has served as CEO/president of the company for the past ten years.  He has been involved with PrimaCare for twenty years as both a practicing physician and in an administrative capacity.  He also serves as president of the Urgent Care Association of America, an industry trade group which represents over three thousand urgent care professionals throughout the United States.

Patients can be treated at a PrimaCare center more quickly and at a lower cost than at a typical emergency department. Staff includes board certified physicians in family practice or internal medicine. They also have certified Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners. Including full and part time staff, PrimaCare Medical Centers have about 250 employees who work extended evening hours and weekends. Personnel are cross trained so that staff has multiple skills they can utilize in the operations of the centers. Last summer, the centers were accredited through the Joint Commission.

Much of their capital expenditures of late has focused on enhancing quality including an upgrade of diagnostic equipment.  “Last year, if you had the ability to purchase, it was a very good time to buy since equipment vendors, due to the economic recession, were eager to cut deals,” says Dr. Dillahunty.  They added computer radiography to all eleven centers. They also bought new hematology analyzers.

Managing Multi-Site Locations

“If you are dealing with a multi-site group, one of the issues you have to focus on is communication. You have a corporate hub that has to reach out to the various sites,” says Jennifer Stephenson, PrimaCare’s Executive Director. “We have center medical director at each location who works with all of the providers scheduled at that location. Then we have a center manager who works with the employees.  We have three disciplines at our centers, clinical which includes nurses and medical assistants, lab/x-ray techs and patient representatives.”  We have quarterly discipline meetings so that all employees are informed as to what is going on with the company and their specific job.

Also, among the efforts to keep the lines of communication clear and open, they have a newsletter. The newsletter focuses on the employees and makes sure they are up-to-date on all developments. “We try to remind people that we do need to understand what our mission is, as well as our vision – to be the premier urgent care network in the North Texas region,” says Dr. Dillahunty.

Dr. Dillahunty emphasizes integrity and respect for both relations with patients and relations between employees. “Everyone has a role to play and people have good ideas that they can share with us as an organization,” he says. “We can improve our collective intelligence, learn to do things better, provide better customer and patient service, make operations more lean, reduce our overhead, and fulfill our mission by incorporating these good ideas into our day-to-day operations.”

Retention of employees has also been less of a problem with the economic downturn. In addition, PrimaCare has taken a lot of steps to make sure they get the right hire initially. They have put a lot of time and effort into determining the background for the people they already have who are successful with the company. Then they try to match those traits in new hires. “Do these people have the particular background knowledge, experience, and values that will make them successful?” says Stephenson. “No matter where we are hiring—from clinical personnel to people in our central billing office—we try to really look at who is most successful and then match up hires with those kind of profiles.”

The Future of Urgent Care

“With the emphasis on primary care in the federal health care reform legislation, I think both urgent care and the patients we serve stand to benefit,” says Dr. Dillahunty.  “We in the urgent care industry provide quality, cost-effective and convenient care to thousands of patients on a daily basis across the United States and we believe our future is bright”.

-by T.M. Simmons

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