San Francisco-based urgent care chain Carbon Health opened its first clinic in Ventura County just before Thanksgiving — with its initial focus on COVID-19 testing, according to the company.Dr.
Caesar Djavaherian, co-founder of Carbon Health and currently serving as its chief clinical innovation officer, said urgent care clinics are opting for a test-site business model during the pandemic. That applies to its newest location at 2944 Tapo Canyon Road in Simi Valley.“That is what we’ve done in many markets we’ve gone into,” said Djavaherian. “We can very quickly start providing a service that the community needs and the immediate need unfortunately in Simi Valley and throughout the country is seeing whether or not they have coronavirus and whether or not they need to quarantine, and monitoring people for respiratory symptoms that might require hospitalization.”Urgent care centers, which usually see patients for cold and flu infections, broken bones and urinary tract infections have set aside its bread-and-butter services for what’s needed in the market right now.To that end, Djavaherian told the Business Journal Carbon has administered 500,000 tests nationally, the largest number outside of larger health care systems such as CVS Health.“Our thought was, ‘Let’s provide the community with what they need today.’ That’s something we can start doing very quickly. Then over time we can add on our typical urgent care and primary care experiences,” explained Djavaherian.The Urgent Care Association and College of Urgent Care Medicine have been publicly urging patients not to overlook urgent care centers when searching for a test site.“Urgent care centers in every market are telling us they have these capabilities while also experiencing drastic reductions in patient traffic,” UCA said in a statement. “This is not about finding new sites in most markets, but simply deploying patients to very capable and appropriate existing medical facilities — including urgent care centers.”On a national level, pharmacies and other sites have been touted as the place to get testing done, often neglecting the local urgent care center, UCA said.The Carbon Health co-founder isn’t sure when in-person primary care and typical urgent care services will be offered at clinics like the one in Simi Valley — that all depends on market demand.But this test-first business model doesn’t mean a shift in hiring, Djavaherian said, thanks to telehealth.Added Djavaherian: “We’re still using doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners as frontline health care workers to address the pandemic need. Most have a family medicine, internal medicine or emergency medicine background.”Televisits for non-COVID illnesses makes sense for Carbon, which was founded to address the difficulties patients face accessing care.“Carbon Health really started out with the difficulties people have accessing health care services related to the administrative burden — calling to schedule an appointment, calling to figure out how much they would be charged for certain services,” Djavaherian said.But the health care industry relies too heavily on outdated technology, Djavaherian maintained, such as fax machines to send medical records and handing patients stacks of forms to fill out, oftentimes for background information the system should have already.“The technology is really addressing the entire experience and not just the health records, which is what most existing healthtech clerics use,” he said.Carbon’s tech focus creates a COVID testing process with appointments made online and lasting 10 to 15 minutes upon arrival.“The tech also allows you to do registration at home, so you can upload a picture of your insurance card, you can answer questions about symptoms, and things like your past medical history, and that becomes part of your record,” added Djavaherian.Short testing appointments will translate to short in-person primary care visits too, with Carbon’s tech helping eliminate paperwork redundancies.
“The idea is not to just focus on coronavirus but really plan for a future where Simi Valley and other communities can access their health care needs in a much more patient-centric way,” Carbon’s co-founder added.Carbon Health also has clinics in Pasadena, Irvine, Echo Park and downtown Los Angeles.