The Urgency Room, which its operators say is the middle ground between the E.R. and urgent care, is set to open in Woodbury in October.

Run by the Emergency Physicians Professional Association (EPPA), a group of Twin Cities E.R. physicians that staffs six area hospital emergency departments, the Urgency Room is yet another player in the increasingly crowded Woodbury medical scene.

"The things that frustrate our patients also frustrate us," said Dr. Gary Gosewisch, emergency physician and CEO of EPPA and the Urgency Room.

Emergency rooms, which legally can't turn away any patient from basic treatment, can be crowded, with long wait times for patients with noncritical injuries or illnesses. E.R. visits can also be expensive compared to office visits.

Urgent care centers are another option for patients. These walk-in clinics are staffed by physicians, physician assistants and nurses.

Gosewisch said the Urgency Room will be staffed by board-certified emergency physicians who have specialized training to treat acute cases and can also start care for patients suffering from more life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

"Patients need to have more choices," he said. "All you have is urgent care, a wide gap, and then you have hospitals and the E.R."

Gosewisch said about 80 percent of patients who go to the emergency room do not require a stay in the hospital. "They walk out the same door they came in," he said.

Those are exactly the patients the new clinic is going after in the east metro. But there's some back-and-forth about whether there is demand for those folks in Woodbury.

"It sort of fits the outer-ring, expanding suburb that we typically see these facilities built in," said Tom Charland, CEO of Merchant Medicine, a retail health clinic consulting firm in Shoreview. "It's got every possible choice in terms of walk-in medicine."

Woodwinds, of the Health- East system, has the largest emergency department in the area and sees about 29,000 patients a year.

"We're certainly not busting at the seams," said Dr. Anthony Nardi, emergency department medical director of Woodwinds. "We think we are meeting the community needs."

He said patient growth has been about 6 percent yearly.

Despite the rise in urgent care clinics, Nardi said, people continue to walk into emergency departments with urgent, but not life-threatening, illnesses and injuries.

"The response of emergency departments is that we have to be able to provide that care," he said. Woodwinds treats less-acute patients in an area of the emergency department.

Across town, Dr. Alison Peterson, Allina medical clinic district medical director for the east metro, said it will be nice to have an extra provider during busy times, such as flu season.

"I think they have a good chance of being successful," she said. "I have no fear that they're going to put us in any difficult business position."

Officials from Allina have met with EPPA, she said, to create a recommendation system, where the Urgency Room physicians may refer their walk-in patients for follow-up with Allina primary care doctors.

The Urgency Room won't accept trauma patients from ambulances and will not be open around the clock. Patients must be able to drive or walk into the clinic, which will open with 12 exam rooms.

EPPA worked out deals with insurance companies to keep costs down, Gosewisch said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Medica and HealthPartners confirmed that the Urgency Room would be added to their list of in-network providers and classified as an urgent-care facility, rather than an emergency room. Both added, however, that their health plans cover a variety of ranges.

With health overhauls coming, Dr. William Heegaard, president-elect of the Minnesota chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said he would not be surprised to see an increase in facilities like the Urgency Room.

"I think where we're going with emergency medicine is a little uncharted," said Heegaard, who is also the chief of emergency medicine at Hennepin County Medical Center. The most critical patients will continue to be seen in emergency rooms and hospitals, he said. But, he added, if emergency room visits rise, the Urgency Room might serve an important role.

Emma L. Carew • 651-735-9749