“Everyone is fighting for the primary care patient right now.” So said the CEO of a large independent physician practice in New Jersey. This battleground is taking place not just in doctors’ offices, but increasingly in malls, drug store chains, corporate headquarters, urgent care clinics, and retail care centers.
Peter Magas, a managing director at Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Co., a healthcare-focused private equity firm based in Chicago, has a front row seat on this trend.
“We were on vacation,” he told us, “and my four-year old split her lip as we were racing to pack and catch our flight. I searched for a highly-rated urgent care clinic and stopped on the way to the airport. They had her lip glued and out the door in twenty minutes. That would not have happened ten years ago.”
How do you pick winners? “There are no major barriers to entry in urgent care,” Peter said, “and visits can fluctuate meaningfully during flu season. Site selection, local marketing, payer relationships and the right clinical staffing model are essential for a site to be profitable. In big cities, in addition to large health systems and good access to primary care providers, you could stand on a corner and see five clinics. So, while there are success stories in the sector, it’s very competitive and some platforms have struggled.”