As urgent care grows, the new twist is specialty clinics, franchises

As it grows, urgent care is evolving with the latest twists involving specialty clinics, franchises, and hospitals and health insurance companies getting into the action, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel.

The majority of urgent care clinics provide primary care and pediatric services, but now a growing number are providing special care in areas such as orthopedics and cardiology, the report said.

That's the case for Alejandro Badia, M.D., a hand surgeon, who started an orthopedic urgent care center called OrthoNOW in 2010 in Miami-Dade County in Florida after he found patients had sought care elsewhere before coming to his practice. He wanted patients to be able to reach him more directly.

Now Badia has turned OrthoNOW into a franchise. He has sold 10 franchises so far, with most of the owners not doctors but people capitalizing on this growing healthcare delivery option. "Our mission is to change the way expert orthopedic healthcare is delivered. It's a simple mission. Like Uber. It's a simple concept," said Badia, a practicing hand surgeon.

There are more than 7,000 urgent care centers in the U.S., with the sector expected to grow 4 percent to 6 percent a year in the next several years, the report said.

OrthoNOW plans to double in size every year for the next five years. The cost of a franchise is between $450,000 and $850,000, with most care provided by orthopedic physician assistants who work under the supervision of a physician, the article said.

Another change in urgent care, is that the centers were at first mostly independently owned. However, with the shift to outpatient care, more hospitals and health insurance companies are opening urgent care clinics, the report said. More patients are seeking treatment at urgent care centers because of convenience and time savings.

To learn more:
- read the article