A Frisco company wants to build an emergency room facility at DFW Airport, which would become the first freestanding ER on the property of a U.S. airport.
Code 3 ER and Urgent Care plans to build an 8,125-square-foot full-service emergency and urgent care clinic on the northeast corner of Rental Car Drive and Southgate Avenue, near the airport’s south entrance.
Code 3 would also have a 1,700-square-foot urgent care clinic and pharmacy inside Terminal D next to the III Forks steakhouse. That location will provide travelers and airport employees access to low-cost and non-emergency services, such as physical exams and vaccines.
At 26.9 square miles, the airport property “is pretty much the size of Manhattan, so it makes sense to have services available,” said Dr. Carrie de Moor, the chain’s chief executive officer.
Code 3 contacted DFW Airport about the project in 2015. The airport’s board unanimously approved the concept in November, in part to help boost revenue.
Airport officials say the details have not been finalized, but some aspects were outlined in documents reviewed by board members during a meeting last year.
For example, Code 3 would initially pay just over $90,300 a year to lease the land on Innovation Drive. Rent would increase about 3 percent annually for a lease term tentatively set at 20 years.
The cost to construct the freestanding facility is estimated at $3.6 million, plus an additional $850,000 for the Terminal D site. The airport is working with Code 3 to develop a site plan that it expects to approve in the coming weeks. Groundbreaking is anticipated by mid-April.
Medical emergencies occur on 1 out of every 604 flights, according to estimates in a 2015 New England Journal of Medicine study. National experts say placement of the new emergency care center could prove to be lucrative business.
At airports, “there are medical emergencies galore. So it’s not a bad idea,” said Dr. Howard Mell, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. “ If you are there and have a need, convenience is king.”
The Code 3 ER facility would be able to stabilize patients with the types of medical events likely to be experienced by passengers, such as stroke, seizure or diabetic coma.
It will be equipped with CT, ultrasound and X-ray machines and be able to do lab testing. There will also be observation rooms for short-term admissions.
Once the development plan is approved, the emergency center will be on airport property, near headquarters and directly across from Einstein Bros. Bagels. The central location, high visibility and convenient roadway access were important for the provider, airport documents noted.
While fiscally promising, Mell noted several factors that could become problematic as questions about the model persist. There are more than 200 freestanding emergency rooms in Texas. Most remain out of network for health insurance and patients frequently confuse them with urgent care.
“You pay a premium for emergency service,” Mell said. Freestanding facilities need to go above and beyond to make sure patients understand that, whether they are on airport property or elsewhere. “So that people don’t feel hoodwinked.”
Code 3’s hybrid model combines both urgent and emergency care services. Both will be available around the clock “due to the nature of business at the airport and 24-7 employees,” said de Moor.
The chain is working with the airport on arrangements to make sure its 60,000 employees, as well as those of other local employers whose staffs frequently travel, are in-network for insurance.
With a hybrid model, sick travelers also can go through the lower-cost urgent care center first, especially if they are unsure whether their issue is a life-threatening emergency.
“Patients don’t know the difference. They didn’t go to medical school for that training,” de Moor said. “We want them to be treated with the right acuity level, at the right time and at the right cost setting. That’s the best model for patients, not just health-care-wise, but financially too.”