Trendsetting Colorado Springs medical practice changes name after 30-plus years

2018-03-24 | Government Technology

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Expresscare Plus started as a family practice and urgent care center 30-plus years ago -- "back when urgent care centers weren't cool," Dr. Mark Fraley said.

When Drs. Avrim Cantor and Richard McCreery started the practice, the idea of a combined family practice/urgent care was met with skepticism in medical circles, Fraley said. But Expresscare has endured, even as it has evolved. Its latest change? Its name.

Expresscare is now Fraley Family Practice.

The first part of the new name stems from the fact that Fraley, who joined the practice in 1995, is the only remaining physician, though the practice is also staffed with nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The latter part better reflects the focus of the business, Fraley said. While the practice still accepts walk-ins, the urgent care part has faded, he said, "only because there are so many urgent cares around here now."

"Really what we are is an extended-hours family practice," he said. People still walk in with ailments ranging from lacerations to the flu, "but probably 90 percent of what we do is appointments and physicals and preventive health and that sort of thing," he said.

For a long time, there was a third key component of the practice -- caring for hospitalized patients. "When I came, that was still a third of our practice," Fraley said. But that faded with the emergence of hospitalists, whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients.

Those three legs of the practice -- family medicine, urgent care and hospital care -- made for a bustling business, Fraley said.

"There were a lot more docs back in those days," he said. "There was a time when we had eight doctors here, so it was crammed."

With Expresscare open seven days a week and with longer hours than a regular practice, staffing was often a challenge, Fraley said. (It's now closed on Sundays.) Several years ago, Expresscare, 2141 N. Academy Circle, added a second location on the rapidly growing north side of town, but it didn't last long. "It just got overwhelming with the manpower," he said.

The practice these days, Fraley said, is "comfortably busy."

"I think every family doctor in town is as busy as they want to be. There is still a need for more family practitioners here, for primary care."

A benefit of remaining open to walk-ins is that it is a way for new practitioners to build their practice, Fraley said. Those they see as a walk-in may return as a regular patient and get more consistent care. "The continuity there is what has always made this work well for us," he said.

One welcome change over the years, Fraley said, "is the thrust toward preventive medicine is just huge now." While that's always been a focus of his, it's now supported by insurance companies.

One thing that hasn't changed: the soothing presence of the fish tank in the waiting room. There was once a plan to remove it in order to put a big bench in the room, Fraley said, "and people said no way."