Urgent cares are doing better than they ever have. With average treatment costs of $150 and wait times of 30 minutes or less, urgent cares are taking their place as the go-to for fast, affordable and accessible emergency care. More people are signing on to centers around them, and this is leading to a boom in the industry. At last count, there were over 9,600 urgent care centers in the US, with an open rate of about 300-600 a year.
While the boom is helping bridge the divide between primary health care and emergency health services, the tradeoff is an increasingly congested market. Markets in some states, such as Florida, are already saturated, and in younger markets, there is increased competition for a growing customer base.
All of this means that if you have taken the decision to open an urgent care facility, you must take the time to do it right. The initial capital outlay to open a center will likely run into the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars – meaning you cannot afford avoidable mistakes.
How can you avoid the most common mistakes and get your newly open urgent care off to a great start? Here’s all you should know, starting with how to open an urgent care center.
How do you open urgent care centers?
Although they provide the promise of competitively-priced and readily available medical care, urgent care centers are still healthcare facilities. This means they are subject to a slew of regulations and rules that dictate who can open an urgent care, where one can be opened and other licensing requirements.
In certain states, such as New York for instance, only licensed individuals may open or operate a healthcare facility. In addition, corporations are not allowed to practice medicine or employ licensed individuals to practice under their name. In these states, an urgent care center can only be opened by a licensed individual or partnership of licensed individuals who are qualified to practice medicine.
States also have specific licensing requirements for healthcare facilities. Although urgent cares may not always fall within the definition of a healthcare facility that requires licensing, it is important to be certain how the law applies in your state. In Arizona, for instance, urgent care centers must be licensed with the Department of Health before they can begin operating.
Zoning regulations will determine where a facility can be situated, and what the requirements are for facility design, signage and waste management. Urgent care centers will also typically require a CLIA certificate (or a waiver) for those that intend to do lab testing, in addition to other permits and licenses that may apply.
The bottom-line is – starting an urgent care facility is as much about the paperwork and planning as it is about the actual process of whipping the facility into shape. So, before you start deciding on a location, picking out equipment or talking to staff, consider these first.
5 things to consider before starting
Between the costs of startup and the skyrocketing competition in the urgent care industry, starting an urgent care can be quite demanding. There’s often a lot to think about, and plan for. Here are the top 5 to start with:
Keep things simple
Due to the high competition in the industry, it can feel like your urgent care will only have a shot at success by making a big splash. But this is often far from the case. In the weeks before opening and in the months afterwards, you will see a lot of things that you like, and many that you don’t.
Starting simple gives you the flexibility to change things around when necessary and position your facility to provide the best service possible. There are software companies, like UptimeHealth, that can assist you in keeping your operations lean and allow you to quickly change compliance processes. Avoid the impulse to splurge on the best of everything or set plans that are unrealistic or not easily attainable. Instead, set simple, reasonable goals that will get your facility on its feet quickly and provide a springboard for future success.
Process licenses and permits early
All of the necessary licenses and permits should either already be far along in the works or completely done before opening. Needless to say, without the necessary permits and licenses, your facility cannot legally open or operate in the aspects where permits are required.
Pick a great location with simple design
There are many things to consider when it comes to picking a suitable location. The first thing you should know is finding the perfect spot for your facility may not happen as quick as you want. It takes a lot of time and energy, so you should be prepared to put the work in.
Visibility and convenience will be very important for your location. You want a facility that patients can find with minimal effort. Ideally, your location should be visible to passing traffic. Another important factor to keep in mind is parking. How much parking you can provide will often dictate client flow. Aim for parking that meets the number of patients you expect your facility to be able to handle.
Also, ask if the conditions that make the spot perfect at the time will be the same 5 or 10 years from now. If there’s a possibility those conditions will change shortly, then you might be better off looking elsewhere.
Set up payment early
It is generally recognized as sound practice to set up contracting and credentialing with payers long before your facility opens. What payers you support and whether or not you can accept their insurance can be a deal-breaker for many patients. Ensure you’re all set up with the majority payers before you open.
Starting this late can seriously affect the open date for your urgent care. Often, the entire process to complete setting up contracting and credentialing can take up to 8 months or longer. Get the work done early so you are in-network and ready with all the major payers on opening day.
Decide on technology providers
In many ways, selecting your electronic medical records (EMR) provider ties in with your contracting and credentialing with payers. Many providers offer credentialing services that tie into the EMR software. Getting this set up early can ensure you have your records and payments ecosystem functioning before opening.
It makes sense to conclude all necessary customization and training so user adoption is at 100% before launch. Patients don’t want to face bottlenecks in your scheduling or processing, so ensure you don’t find yourself doing this at the last minute.
Start easy and smooth with UptimeHealth
Starting an urgent care can be demanding, but with the information we have provided here, you have all you need to get started right. There will be a lot of paperwork and planning to get squared away right from the start and the best way to take care of this is with intelligent cloud-based software.
UptimeHealth provides a federated solution that lets you keep a close eye on compliance tasks through a complete suite of operations management tools. For absolutely no cost, you can use UptimeHealth to plan the opening of your urgent care and get your most important tasks done seamlessly. Contact us to learn how UptimeHealth can help you start easy and smooth.