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September 20th, 2018 at 8:49 am

Urgent-care facilities are surging in popularity nationwide

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They are popping up in many neighborhoods, replacing former bank branches or closed supermarkets, and they’re bringing a new script to medical care.

Urgent-care facilities are a hybrid between the local doctor’s practice and the hospital emergency room.

Urgent care is now an $18 billion industry, with some 8,125 centers around the country, making it a small but growing part of the overall $3.4 trillion medical spending in the US in 2017.

The industry has a projected annual growth rate of 6 percent, or about 400 to 500 new facilities a year, according to the trade group Urgent Care Association.

The biggest problem faced by the centers may be insurance carriers’ acceptance of them.

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That’s the view of Dr. Nabil Salib, who has been building an urgent-care facility called MYDOC in Forest Hills, Queens. Salib said the economics of this relatively new medical service can be daunting.

“The insurance companies are stiffing us. They are not giving us what we ask for, and they are making their reimbursement hard,” Salib said. “This is not a cash business. I rely 100 percent on insurance reimbursements, and that is the limiting factor of my business.”

Doctor-entrepreneurs aiming to build a successful business must be in it for the long run. A key, Salib added, is keeping patients happy, providing them with a better option.

“There are a lot of patients who don’t want to go to an emergency room,” Salib said. Others, he adds, can’t get quick doctor appointments.

As the sole owner of MYDOC, Salib wants patients taken care of quickly. “The average waiting time here is about 15 minutes or less on a busy day.”

The American College of Emergency Physicians said most emergency rooms are “operating at or over capacity.”

One constantly needs to improve equipment and staff, Salib said.

He wouldn’t rule out an equity partner so he could expand, but he’s thinking it through carefully.

“My hesitation about expansion,” Salib said, “is being able to replicate and sustain the same quality of medical care.”

MYDOC is making a small profit on a low-seven-figure annual revenue, he said, but most of that is plowed back into the business. The money is reinvested “so we can clear the rooms a lot faster. We are hiring top-notch providers and staff.”

Urgent-care centers do not treat life-threatening situations, but they will stabilize patients while securing emergency transport, according to Urgent Care Association.

Salib said he provides emergency-room services that include EKGs, X-rays, IV fluids, blood tests and drug tests. He said his job is to supplement, not replace, the efforts of emergency rooms and primary-care physicians.

Salib said that starting an urgent-care facility isn’t for most doctors.

“It’s a big risk, especially in New York,” he said, adding that the enterprise typically requires about $500,000 in startup money.

“As a doctor, you’re giving up a regular salary and benefits,” Salib pointed out. “That’s something a lot of doctors are not prepared to do.”

Still, “when you work in a hospital, you’re in a strict system that forbids you from being creative,” Salib said. Here there is room for creativity and growth.

“My only regret I have is that I didn’t do this sooner,” he said.

Via NY Post

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