A local primary and urgent health care provider is expanding in the Chattanooga region with a sixth location in North Chattanooga.
Fast Access Healthcare has opened an office on Signal Mountain Road in the shopping plaza adjacent to Walmart. The 10-year-old company is owned by Jonathan Kerley, a Chattanooga native and doctor, and offers both primary and urgent care to about 30,000 patients annually.
Kerley started the company as a walk-in clinic after working as an emergency room doctor, when he realized there was a need for a third option to offer care to patients who couldn't see a primary care doctor but also didn't need emergency care.
"So we started as a walk-in clinic, but then after several weeks patients started asking, 'Can we come back?'" he said. "And we said of course, because the primary care fits right in with the services we wanted to offer."
Now, the majority of the practice's patients list Fast Access as their primary care physician, Kerley said. The company employs three full-time doctors, two part-time doctors and eight physician assistants, with 35 total employees.
The office can do anything a primary care physician can do, and even offers some special services like allergy testing and a full vascular program.
Kerley said the company plans to continue to expand in Chattanooga. He hopes to double the number of Fast Access locations from six to 12 in the next two to three years and said the demand is clearly there to support that growth.
"Before we even opened out here we had people tapping on the doors asking if they could be seen," he said.
UTC student Sidney Beal visited the new location Thursday to find out if her sore throat could be Strep throat. She lives at the bottom of Signal Mountain and said she was excited to have a walk-in clinic so close to home.
"I used to have to drive to Hamilton Place," she said. "This will be much more convenient."
Urgent care clinics are popping up throughout the Chattanooga region and the United States, driven in part by the Affordable Care Act but also by a shifting consumer focus to speed and convenience.
Nationally, the number of quick-care clinics is expected to double by 2015 from about 1,400 to about 2,800, according to a study released in June by global consulting company Accenture. In Chattanooga, Doctors Express, which operates three locations, plans to expand to 20 locations open by 2015.
At Fast Access, Kerley said his company is well-positioned to move into the future created by the Affordable Care Act, although it's hard to say exactly what that future is.
"We tell people if Washington doesn't know, we don't know," he said, laughing. "We expect a lot more people to be insured and have easier access to health care, and we'll be in a position that we can provide that."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.