2. Urgent Care Center
Whether you know it or not, you're in direct competition with your local urgent care clinic, which treats a variety of minor medical problems without an appointment and at times that are convenient to patients. By letting these patients go elsewhere, you're losing patients who could be treated at relatively low expense and recruited to your own practice, Aburmisham said.
Aburmishan said these patients tend to be younger, healthier, and less expensive to treat than patients in your own practice. People in their 20s and 30s often lack a regular caregiver and tend to seek care immediately rather than wait for an appointment, according to a study of a Denver urgent care clinic published in the December 4, 2009, issue of BMC Health Services Research.
"If you can get back those healthy patients, you can have a more profitable business," Aburmishan advised.
To tap into this market, consider opening your own urgent care clinic. In 2012, physicians or physician groups owned 35.4% of urgent care centers, down from 50% in 2010, according to the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAA).
The UCAA reported that the average urgent care center had 357 patient visits per week in 2012, and the Advisory Board Company estimated that the average center makes $118 per patient visit. Combining those figures means that the average urgent care clinic makes an estimated $2.1 million a year.
Urgent care centers can provide a steady source of income as long as they attain sufficient volume, according to Bill Clayton, a principal at Clark Schaefer Hackett, a CPA firm in Columbus, Ohio, who advises on urgent care start-ups.
"If you can get up to 35 patients a day and you're paying a doctor $65-$85 an hour to staff it, you do the math; you're going to make some money," he said. "It's not going to be the kind of margin that appeals to investors, like you have in a surgery center, but you can still make a good living from it."
How to Do It
Clayton said you can start urgent care within your own office, gradually extending hours to see whether there is enough demand. This can be done by staggering the schedules of your physician-partners, Aburmishan said. She adds that even a solo practitioner could deal with the extended hours by using nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who may already be in the practice, or by taking on moonlighting physicians.
In the long run, however, urgent care should not be located in your practice, for 2 key reasons, said Patrice Pash, RN, Director of Operations for NMN Consultants in Machesney Park, Illinois. First, you need a lot of space: 3 or 4 dedicated examination rooms and a larger waiting room that can accommodate up to 12-14 people. Second, you'll need to be in a busy retail corridor, where medical practices aren't usually located. She said the clinic needs to be a daily sight for everyone, so that they will know how to get there when they need to.
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