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AeroClinic offers quick care for busy travelers

  • Story Highlights
  • New retail medical facility offers care to Atlanta airport travelers, employees
  • Treatment available for minor acute illnesses such as strep throat, headache
  • Physical exams, vaccinations, monitoring of chronic diseases also offered
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By Judy Fortin
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Stephen Plumlee started feeling dizzy and nauseated shortly after his flight from Sarasota, Florida, landed in Atlanta, Georgia. He was wheeled off the plane by paramedics, but instead of being taken to a hospital emergency room downtown, he was treated in the atrium of the busiest airport in the world.

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The AeroClinic joins a growing field of easy-access medical facilities found in pharmacies and retail outlets.

The AeroClinic, a new retail medical facility, offers quick, inexpensive care to travelers and some of the airport's 55,000 employees. "We're kind of the stop in between the hospital during your travels," said Dr. Dominic Mack, chief medical officer for the clinic.

The AeroClinic joins a growing field of easy-access medical facilities found in pharmacies and retail outlets around the country. You could say it falls somewhere between the newer, small clinics and the larger full-service after-hours clinics that have been around for many years.

For about $80, a patient can be treated by a doctor or physician assistant for a minor acute illness such as strep throat, upset stomach or headache. That was the reason behind Derrick Gross' visit. The medical sales representative lives in Atlanta, but travels at least three days a week. He says he's too busy to see a regular doctor, and when he saw the sign while passing through the airport, he decided to make an appointment. Gross spent about 20 minutes with physician assistant Sabrina Jackson going through a battery of tests to try to determine the source of his headaches. Video Health Minute: Airport clinic gives travelers a health-care alternative ».

He received a supply of ibuprofen when the tests revealed no obvious medical problems. "I took a chance by coming here today and I'm satisfied," Gross said. He agreed to follow up with his primary care physician.

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Mack said he treats a lot of patients like Gross. "You have 250,000 passengers who come through Atlanta Hartsfield every day, and people are sick. What they do is delay their care or they don't get their care at all."

Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. surgeon general and frequent flier, sees the need first hand. "I've traveled almost 40,000 miles in the last month and I know there are a lot of people who spend time in airports and a lot of people don't get the care they need," he said.

As a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Satcher believes the concept of a quick-care health facility inside an airport is a good one so long as patients continue to have contact with a primary care physician at home. He serves on the board of directors for The AeroClinic and is one of the privately held company's original investors.

He wants potential patients to understand the restrictions of a facility such as The AeroClinic. "This is not the place to go when you're having chest pains. ... (But) obviously, if you have a minor illness this is an opportunity to seek care while you're traveling and not have to wait until you get back home."

The clinic's 12 staffers also offer preventive care including physical exams, routine vaccinations and monitoring of chronic diseases. The facility accepts some insurance coverage.

In the fall, The AeroClinic, will open a second facility in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, airport. The staff plans to offer flu shots at mobile kiosks in the airport concourses. For now, travelers must go out of the airport security zone to reach the facility.

Stephen Plumlee didn't mind the inconvenience. "I was so out of it, I didn't know what was happening. But everyone has been very helpful."

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After he rested for a couple of hours and recovered from the nausea, an imbalance in his inner ear was diagnosed. He was given medication to help him cope with the flight home and sent on his way.

"This has been good," concluded Plumlee. "It's been fine to be able to do it in the airport, not have to go to some other part of the city and find my way back." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Judy Fortin is a correspondent with CNN Medical News.

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