A Hays business has expanded its medical services and brought on an experienced physician to provide a new local option for primary health care.

Avalon Advanced Health, which had been providing medical spa services for the last three years, expanded in recent months to offer direct primary care. Instead of billing insurance companies, patients can pay a flat monthly fee that covers all of their physician appointments — including house calls and emergencies — as well as much of their lab work.

The physician is Dr. Marshall Eidenberg, a Kansas-licensed doctor of osteopathy who previously worked in a hospital emergency room and specializes in emergency medicine. His wife, Tara, operates Avalon Advanced Health, 2703 Hall, Ste. 13.

“We charge a low monthly membership fee, but most things are included with that membership fee, so annual lab tests that we can perform in the office, no additional charge,” Eidenberg said. “You’re needing stitches at 2 in the morning, no charge for me. You just pay for the supplies, the suture kit. But the management of blood pressure, diabetes … as many office visits that are reasonably needed … it’s all included.”

Nationwide, there has been a growing demand for this type of concierge medicine that allows patients to have a doctor on call when they need one. Benefits include same-day appointments and the ability to also communicate via telephone, email or even photographs or Skype videos through a secure site, he said.

It’s also an option that can help patients and employers save on health insurance costs, which have been rapidly rising the past several years. Switching to a high deductible plan and contracting for direct primary care has helped patients save money compared to purchasing full coverage insurance plans, Tara Eidenberg said.

The business owners still recommend some type of health insurance to cover catastrophic incidents, such as vehicle accidents or emergency surgeries such as appendectomies.

“So if I need an ER visit, things like that, I go to him instead of to the ER. I go to him instead of urgent care. We can do blood, we can do an EKG, we can do all that. We have a sonogram here,” she said. “It’s all simplified in one place. If you’re sick now, say it lasted more than a week. You’ve already paid for a doctor’s visit and a co-pay. Well, if you have to go back, you’re paying another $40 co-pay. With us, you’ve already paid that one-month membership fee, so you get to come in.”

There are more than 1,000 direct primary care clinics nationwide, with several others popping up throughout the state — though Avalon Advanced Health is the only offering so far in northwest Kansas. Tara Eidenberg stressed the business model is not a multi-level marketing strategy.

The clinic expanded its services again recently by also announcing urgent care appointments will be available to members and non-members alike. Patients who do not pay the monthly membership fee can call to receive a same day appointment for a flat cost. The clinic does not accept insurance.

Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Services are available 24/7, but an increased fee applies to non-members who call for an appointment between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. Eidenberg also is willing to make house visits. He said his time working in a hospital emergency room made him believe another option was needed for local patients.

“A lot of times, I would see that patient at 2 in the morning for a rash that’s been there for three months. That’s not reasonable or appropriate for an emergency visit, but they didn’t have really a good option,” he said. “They couldn’t get in with primary care in a timely manner. And how many things could be kept out of the ER with earlier visits? By treating things like pneumonia, bronchitis earlier so that they don’t need the hospital admission.”

Services included with a monthly membership include clinic visits, house calls and work site calls, pre-op exams, EKG, ultrasound imaging, sports physicals, cholesterol testing, diabetes management and laceration repair.