This article, by Richard Romero, is published in The Ambulatory M&A Advisor.
Broadening one’s horizon’s can always be a boost ahead in life, especially in the healthcare industry. Occupational medicine and urgent care have been branching out and weaving each other’s models into their specific businesses to benefit both parties. The Ambulatory M&A Advisor takes a look at some of the benefits involved with urgent care expanding into occupational health, and what this move has to offer both patients and physician owners alike.
Dennis Zinner, MD, owner of All Cities Occupational says that occupational medicine works with people within an office space and primarily focuses on taking care of safety issues that could occur in the workplace.
“With an occupational medicine program in place, people’s staff are going to be primarily healthier, more safety conscious, sustain fewer injuries, and on top of that, the business participating in occupational medicine will see a reduction of workers comp claims,” Zinner says, adding that an occupational medicine practice would work closely with the companies and patients involved.
Anthony Sanzo, CEO of Net Health, agrees that occupational medicine does help business owners and patients, but sometimes, for the sake of the occupational medicine facility managers, expanding into urgent care can be beneficial.
According to Sanzo, urgent care centers are busiest when primary care physicians are unavailable. Sanzo says an urgent care’s busiest hours are in the morning, in the evening, on the weekends, and the holidays. Sanzo says that occupational health is a business that is largely scheduled; and like Zinner mentioned, is a business that serves employers so that they can help to screen their employees to assure that they are healthy, to keep them healthy, or to treat them if they are either ill or injured in a manner that is both good for the employee/patient and for the employer.
John Koehler, MD, founder of Physicians Immediate Care explains that sometimes simply being an urgent care is not enough to sustain a thriving business.
“You need patient traffic, revenue stream; occupational medicine pays really well. It’s very expensive to just have a physician sitting and waiting for long periods of time between patients. Theoretically, if you’re sitting idly at 15 patients a day and losing money, you add occupational medicine and raise your visits another 15 a day, you can possibly become profitable,” he says.
Sanzo says the benefit to combining urgent care with occupational medicine allows the providers to make better use of their facility in that they can see scheduled occupational medicine patients throughout the day when they are least busy with their primary urgent care patients.
“Benefit number two is that there is a synergy. If I, as an employee, have my pre-employment screening or my ongoing screening with a group of providers that are conveniently close to my home, who treat me relatively well; when I have an urgent care issue, I am pretty likely to go and seek that same set of providers. The synergy is that the occupational medicine patients can sometimes also morph into primary care and urgent care patients,” Sanzo says.
Kelley Schudy, Senior Vice President of Sales for Net Health says on the sales side, expansion of services creates a revenue source for the providers and creates brand awareness where the name and brand of the clinic is now spread further into the local market.
As far as what occupational medicine has to offer when compared to a straight urgent care model, Sanzo says they very well could offer different services depending on the occupational health center. Sanzo says the first thing they offer is a group of competent clinicians. Those clinicians can be physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and other caregivers. The healthcare business would then contract with employers to provide the business’ employees with pre-employment screening, ongoing employment screening, Workers’ Comp treatment. Sanzo says this is all provided in a manner where there is a relationship between the employer and the healthcare business, where the employer has the contract with the providers and is paying the bill on behalf of the employees.
“The first thing occupational medicine offers is a service by a group of competent individuals that are conveniently situated to provide efficient and effective care to employees who are from time to time patients. The second thing that they offer is to the client company. What they offer to the company is the promise that when their employees need to be seen, their employees will be seen. As an employer, one of the things we don’t want to do is waste time by having our employees sitting in a waiting room and awaiting the care that they are there to receive. We are looking for that reliability, so we have developed a relationship where we respect each other’s time,” Sanzo says.
As far as differences from a medical point of view between urgent care and occupational medicine, Sanzo says that it depends on the center. He says that the most developed will include rehabilitation and most commonly physical therapy which cannot be found in many urgent care centers, if any.
“You might also find orthopedic surgeons in occupational health centers working either full time, or on contract. It is not likely that you will find those in an urgent care center unless that urgent care center is specific in orthopedics,” Sanzo says.
Schudy adds that the benefits that occupational medicine facilities can provide the client companies is that they can help the company reduce and control their cost.
“They will set up an on site or near site clinic if the company is big enough. One, this can help reduce and control their costs. Then, some larger groups will get into wellness programs and create these to drive a healthier employee which would also help reduce their costs,” Schudy says.
Sanzo says these expansions in services definitely provide a boost in the revenue that is brought into the participating healthcare facility.
“I had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation with a physician who was principally and urgent care owner. They talked about the reality of getting an urgent care center started being slow. By moving to a blended care facility, they were able to increase their revenues significantly,” Sanzo says.
Koehler advises those considering this option to recognize that execution is imperative to success.
“You might buy all the machines and hire the right marketing people, but if you don’t have the right staff and training you won’t get very far with these companies and you’re wasting your money,” Koehler said.
“Urgent care offices are perfect for being the venue for it. You have long hours, walk-ins welcome, no appointment needed. The key is that you have to deliver it.”
Sanzo says what happens during this change to a blended model is either a group of urgent care providers or a group of occupational medicine providers decide to expand their business and offerings.
“To do that, they would need to do an inventory of what services they provide, and what services they need to provide, in order to be effective occupational health providers,” Sanzo says.
“They would then recruit providers and make sure that they have the full compliment. The reverse is also true.”
Schudy agrees with Sanzo but adds that this area is also where risk comes into play.
“That is when they need to leverage technologies, like EHRs. The provider realizes that the risk is if they do provide urgent care services, and they also provide occupational medicine, how do they manage documentation for an Occ Med patient who’s also an urgent care patient, without violating any HIPPA requirements about non-disclosure of confidential PHI (protected health information)? That is the risk. One of the key pieces is making sure they have the right processes and technologies in place to be confidently compliant in the services that they are providing,” Schudy says.
Read the article at the The Ambulatory M&A Advisor.