Adding Another Location to Your Urgent Care Business
With the urgent care industry in its rapid growth phase, many urgent care owners and operators are looking to expand and add more locations to their business. Owners and operators may also be looking to add another location due to high patient volumes at a particular center.
“There are a few tracks for expansion: growth and load balancing included,” Jason Williams, PA, Founder, President and CEO of FastMed Urgent Care’s Eastern region, says.
Williams says that a heavy patient flow is a sign that you may want to add another location to your urgent care business.
“If we have a clinic that is really busy, we may build something a few miles away that decompresses wait times and balances the volume a bit,” Williams says.
When one center is overloaded with patients, Williams says that adding a new location may allow for a better patient experience.
“If you have a set number of providers working a certain number of rooms, they can only see so many patients in a certain amount of time,” Williams says. “Expanding the number of rooms and staffing levels means you can expand the number of patients you see per hour.”
In addition, if you have a good economic situation at your current location, that could also be a sign that you may be ready and able to add a new location to the business.
“From a load balancing perspective, if your clinic is really busy, and you think you can leverage another clinic in the market, whether you can manage that new clinic will be based on your current clinic’s economic performance and the strength of your management team and systems,” Williams says.
When it comes to the growth track of expansion, Graham Tujague, MD at Lake After Hours Urgent Care, says there are a couple of key signs that he looks for.
“Typically we look for locations tied to residential areas, the demographics of the payor mix, how many patients are insured and the employment status of the area’s population,” Tujague says. “We’d also look for competition in the area that we want to move to.”
Tujague says that if the area already has competitors like other urgent care centers, hospitals and emergency rooms, he may choose a different location.
“If there’s an open market with not a lot of competition in the area, we may try to seize the moment and add in a new location,” Tujague says.
Tujague says there’s not really a ‘tell-tale’ sign that will direct him to open up another location.
“There won’t be a sign that just tells you to open up a new site,” Tujague says. “It’s more of a conglomeration of signs.”
Williams also says that signs for successful expansion can be difficult to see.
“Some of the most important indicators for expansion are rather subtle,” Williams says. “We’re constantly looking at key data indicators to see if any will lead us to open a new clinic and predict its success.”
Key data indicators and signs for Williams include: population, inappropriate ER rates in a set population, access to urgent care in a particular county, ACO and hospital partnerships, opportunities for synergies and strategic acquisitions.
“If you’re ready to add another location to your business, but there are already clinics in the areas that you want to expand to, consider an acquisition instead of de novo development,” Williams says. “Building a new center near an existing one may not make sense, but acquiring that existing center does in some cases.”
Williams says that FastMed is always looking to grow the practice not only in the markets they are already in, but in the markets they want to be in to better serve patients.
“However, most of the key data indicators will need to be represented in the market before we would bring up the opportunity of adding another center,” Williams says.
If you’re ready to add another location to your urgent care business, but just don’t have the funds to do it yet, there are some alternatives.
“You might not always want to open a new clinic, so think about expanding inside your existing footprint,” Williams says. “If your clinic has one provider seeing 40 patients a day, they may not be able to see many more, so you may add an additional staffing. That will leverage unused internal capacity in the current clinic while also helping with a high patient flow based on a pretty simple ROI calculation.”
In addition, Williams says to take a look at the way your current clinic is laid out.
“You might not be using the space efficiently,” Williams says. “You might be able to add another exam room, or use the space for additional services to maximize patient value and thru-put.”
“There have been some clinics that we’ve had to enlarge to handle an increased volume,” Tujague says. “We’ve knocked out some walls, added four more exam rooms, increased parking and then beefed up the provider status.”
However, there’s only so much that these changes can do.
“You can only beef up your location so much, and the patients will determine where the flow is going to go,” Tujague says. “Generally, you do not want your patients to have to wait longer than 30 minutes. If the wait is consistently longer than that, we’d look at making some more changes, and maybe look into adding another location.”
While adding another location to your urgent care business can increase your presence in the market place, you have to be sure that you’re paying attention to the right signs and that you’re able to effectively run another center.
“You can open as many centers as you want, as long as you can support them all operationally,” Williams says. “Having many indications that you’re ready to add another center can be a great problem to have, but you have to have the infrastructure to manage multiple centers.”
If you have an interest in learning more about the subject matter covered in this article, the M&A process or desire to discuss your current situation, please contact Blayne Rush, Investment Banker at 469-385-7792 or Blayne@AmbulatoryAlliances.com
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