Neighbors Emergency Center is a freestanding emergency room with twenty-eight locations across Texas. It was originally started by eight doctors wanting to change the way emergency room medicine is given and focuses on patients’ needs and quality care.
Neighbors Emergency Center opened its first location in 2008. “A group of eight doctors, most of which were working for good and varying hospitals in Houston, saw this possibility, came together and decided to open up a freestanding emergency room (ER),” says Neighbors Emergency Center Chief Operating Officer Bruce McVeigh.
The doctors looked at the emergency rooms (ERs) in which they worked and saw that these were crowded, busy places with long wait times and a rushed level of care and decided that they wanted to change the way emergency medicine is given in the ER.
“That was their whole focus,” says McVeigh. “They took a risk. They didn’t really know what was going to happen in the industry. They did this out of their pocket, and they went without pay for many months so that they could pay employees and keep things up and running while they were still working hospital shifts to get paid for their families,” he says.
“We provide the same services as any emergency room in the United States. The only difference is that we are detached from the hospital and operate (true to the name) as pure, freestanding emergency rooms,” says McVeigh. “We’ve got a board-certified ER physician on staff twenty-four hours a day; we’ve got full lab capability, full radiology capability with CAT scan, X-ray, and ultrasound. We can handle anything from major trauma to a sniffle,” he says.
“The reason this whole concept was thought of and put into execution, is that it is all about really serving the needs of the people,” says McVeigh. “Like most things, the consumers want it (medical care) close to them, and that’s what this niche of medicine has done. It has gone out to the communities so that the consumer/patient now has multiple choices instead of only one choice – the hospital-based ER.”
Being a freestanding emergency room, Neighbors Emergency Center has also been able to reach out to rural towns and areas where access to quality healthcare was sometimes a challenge.
“We took a different model approach,” says McVeigh. “Our doctors can invest in the company, which is unique and different from other entities right now. Also, we invest very heavily into a robust quality assurance program. We are one of the only freestanding ERs that have all our centers Joint Commission certified, which is done in every hospital but isn’t normally a requirement for freestanding ERs. But we chose to do it to make sure we’re giving the best quality.”
Neighbors Emergency Center has always been about taking care of the patient first. “The reason I joined Neighbors is I really believe in their vision of taking care of the patient first, and I can’t say that’s true at every ER,” says McVeigh. “They all take care of patients, but Neighbors’ whole philosophy and vision has always been to keep a patient at the center of everything we do and decisions we make; everything from how we operate our buildings to how we staff and train our people,” he explains.
“I’ve been in healthcare for almost thirty-four years; thirty years as military and four years as a civilian,” says McVeigh. “When I came out of the military, I looked at a lot of different companies in health care. But when I interviewed with Neighbors, I sat down and looked at their vision, looked at where they were going, and what stuck with me is how these people really believe in taking care of the patients and their families.”
Neighbors Emergency Centers have varying and sometimes unique conceptual designs and layouts. “One that we have is called the open concept,” says McVeigh. “It’s very unique, and it’s a bigger area. The patient’s room is a little larger, and it has a family seating area built into it. Inside that room, families can wait with the patient. There’s a built-in bench/couch and a place where they can plug in their phones and their computers. They can be part of the patient’s experience. That’s different; that’s unique. We’re the only ones that I know of that have an open concept where we invite the patients’ families to be part of that care and to come into the room, to help the patient they’re with,” he says.
“It’s a great experience for the patients,” says McVeigh. “It’s warm, inviting, caring, and professional. Patients get tremendous care when they come to us. They come in; they’re met by somebody standing up to greet them, and normally, they see a doctor within five minutes, unless there are multiple patients. In addition to that, their families are taken care of and catered to.”
Neighbors Emergency Center is designed with its patients in mind – from how the chairs are positioned to TV access in rooms. “The colors on the wall were chosen because light blues and light greens are soothing,” says McVeigh. “Every center even has its own pediatric room, where there are Disney stickers on the walls, Disney movies playing on a TV, small tables and chairs that kids can sit on with coloring books. It’s a unique environment created to fit everybody’s needs in order to help take away all the angst of seeing a doctor.”
Neighbors Emergency Center embodies five basic values. “We stress to our employees that they live the values of the company and we set up a value-based system. We have five values we espouse: the heart, the spark, the guardian, the smile, and the window and we ask our folks to live that every day,” says McVeigh.
“The heart – being very genuine, compassionate. That’s about healthcare, which to me equals compassion,” says McVeigh. “The spark – driven and being driven to move the company and that center forward. The guardian – nurturing and taking care of what we have; that’s our people. The smile – being friendly and uplifting – welcoming our patients and our staff. The window – we want to be a very transparent organization in everything that we do.”
And for employees, Neighbors Emergency Center is a great place to work. “It’s people taking care of patients,” says McVeigh. “The company makes it a forefront effort; we have committees that meet to look at the values and work of their centers – making sure people are being taken care of the best they can.”
In the scope of things, the freestanding ER is still a young industry, “but I believe that the freestanding industry is truly going to be the way of the future,” says McVeigh. “Because we’re giving a choice to the patient, and that’s what it’s always been about: letting the patient have the choice.”
Neighbors Emergency Center’s greatest challenge is that Medicare and Medicaid do not presently recognize the freestanding ER industry, but the company is actively working to change that.
Currently, there are twenty-four Neighbors Emergency Centers across Texas. There are other large freestanding entities, but most of these are not privately owned. “They (other freestanding entities) took a different path and started partnering to a lot of hospital out-patient department ERs,” says McVeigh. “A lot of their stuff was co-branded with bigger hospital systems, while we have remained private and independent. So, I believe we are overall the number one largest entity right now for privately-owned freestanding ERs.”
As Neighbors Emergency Center continues to serve many Texas communities, it aims to keep its primary focus on its patients and offer excellent care and treatment. Always keeping an eye to that special attention seems to be what sets Neighbors apart and what makes for a much more comfortable ER visit for both patients and their families.