Urgent care centers stress convenience and proximity.
When Iraq and Afghanistan veterans Dr. David Orringer, a surgeon, and Davidson Hall, a physician’s assistant, returned from war, they launched a new mission: setting up an emergency care facility back home in Arizona. Apportioning their 4,400 square feet of office space between treatment, X-ray, lab and pharmacy hubs – plus a small surgical suite – the “Daves” staffed up to 16 and immediately felt the impact their clinic made on the community. By following the lead of these savvy professionals, you’ll quickly realize how important your services can be to the health and welfare of folks in your area.
1. Meet your state’s qualifications for opening an urgent care clinic. According to a doctrine known as the Corporate Practice of Medicine, you must be a licensed physician to operate an immediate care clinic in Texas, California, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, New York and New Jersey. If you reside in a state that’s not on this list, you don’t have to be a doctor to open a practice, but you will have to meet a stringent list of requirements for anyone opening a medical facility, which range from criminal background clearances to bonding and legal mandates. CEOs of large firms regularly open critical care centers with no medical background.
2. Research your area’s population and demographics to make certain it can support an urgent care center. The Census Bureau is a good place to start. Back its figures up with local zoning board reports and projections. If the region you’ve chosen already has multiple facilities, this should be offset by statistics that project big population growth in the future to make your venture worthwhile and viable. In areas with no current urgent care centers, you’ll want to target a population of at least 25,000 to justify your investment of time, money and resources.
3. Write a business plan and construct a budget. Your business plan should include an overview of how you’ll operate the urgent center, projections of patient numbers (see Step 3), services performed on site, staffing needs – particularly as they relate to a 24-hour clinic – and a marketing strategy. Include in your budget an accurate assessment of these expenses: rent, utilities, furniture and equipment purchases, salaries, monthly supply replenishment, insurance payments, legal fees and maintenance. Offset these expenses by using other centers in your area as a model to project revenues your business can bring in once it’s up and running.
4. Hire an urgent care clinic manager with experience to expedite your center’s launch. Find someone with the same vision for the clinic’s future as you do. Interview for candidates who understand everything from triage protocols to replenishing medical supplies, servicing high-tech equipment, managing insurance company claims and supervising office staff. Seasoned urgent care physicians attest to the fact that an efficient care center manager can make or break a facility.
5. Monitor competition. Apply due diligence by researching facilities springing up in your area. Search the Internet by zip code under these key words: “urgent,” “critical,” “immediate,” “care,” “insty-clinic” and “emergency care.” Use a phone book for listings. Contact one of the nonprofits listed at the end of this article to obtain their regional lists. Your independent urgent care center will complete with larger competitors if your facility is well-established and efficiently-managed.
6. Turn to professional, nonprofit organizations for help starting and operating your business. Short of giving out college degrees in urgent care center management, entities such as Urgent Care.org, the National Association for Ambulatory Care and the Urgent Care Association of America (see links below) can be invaluable resources. Apply for membership, and you’ll receive a wealth of help and advice. Online resources and in-person classes plus budget and staffing advice are available to members. You’ll be invited to conferences, get the inside scoop on industry research, networking and news about new practices and equipment. These nonprofits are dedicated to the integrity of the urgent care center industry across the nation, and you can’t go wrong affiliating with any of them.
7. Obtain licensing required by your state and community. As of this writing, the only state in the United States requiring a specific “urgent care license” is Arizona, but if you plan to establish a clinic in Delaware, Illinois or New Hampshire, you will be subject to restrictions associated with naming and marketing your facility. That stated, you’ll have to comply with laws that require licenses, permits and sanctions by your state’s medical system – including permits to operate X-ray and other select high-tech diagnostic equipment. Additionally, when the time comes to choose staff, look for credentials, schooling and certifications in the field of urgent care medicine to elevate your center’s reputation.
8. Purchase a comprehensive insurance package to cover the unique needs of your urgent care center. You’ll need standard malpractice insurance on the clinic as a whole and on practitioners. Protect the building and contents from a variety of catastrophic possibilities by purchasing replacement coverage on everything under roof. Turn to a commercial broker specializing in urgent and immediate care center coverage to get the best advice. The nonprofits mentioned in Step 5 can be a great resource in this area.
9. Find the right building for your urgent care center, and retrofit the interior to suit your facility’s needs. Plan for a well-equipped triage setup, private treatment rooms, office areas and amenities such as a private office for consultations and a break room for staff. Allocate room for large pieces of medical equipment that hog floor space. If you’re working with a construction pro with experience retrofitting this type of facility in the past, you’re going to save time, money and nerves.