As many healthcare systems continue to break ground on their own urgent care facilities and others scan the horizon for operations ripe for acquisition, a third option is starting to pick up steam: Some hospitals are contracting with third parties to run their urgent care business in the hope of ensuring their in-house “startups” are operated by industry veterans. Physicians Immediate Care and OSF Healthcare have already entered into such an arrangement, as have Premier Healthcare and Indiana University Health Southern Indiana Physicians. Now, in the latest example, Urgent Team Family of Urgent Care & Walk-In Centers has announced a joint venture to operate a pair of Baptist Health facilities in Arkansas.
Troy Wells, president and chief executive officer of Baptist Health in Arkansas, says partnering with Urgent Team allows his company to take advantage of emerging marketplace trends and the efficiencies inherent in the urgent care model. “Healthcare consumers have displayed a strong propensity to use urgent care centers,” Wells explains. “One of the most important benefits of urgent care centers is they can help reduce unnecessary emergency department use. We often see patients coming to the ER with conditions that could be treated in less acute settings, and urgent care acts as an important resource to catch those patients who need immediate care but nonemergent care.”
At the same time, Wells continues, partnerships like the one between Baptist Health and Urgent Team allow each party to continue to focus on what it does best—while minimizing the risk. “We have to be deliberate about our resources and remain committed to our core competencies. And with that comes the question, what competencies or functions do we need to operate ourselves and which functions could we partner in? Partnerships such as Baptist Health’s with Urgent Team allow us to partner with an operator whose only focus is on urgent care.”
Urgent Team Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Tom Dent agrees, adding that offering more options to patients equates to a healthier populace. “The health system-integrated urgent care model provides new and existing customer access points for the level of nonemergent care and enables their network physicians to offer patients after-hours care options for postsurgical follow up and monitoring, wound care maintenance, medication monitoring, and more.”
Nashville-based Urgent Team offers care at 31 locations under four brands: Urgent Team, with 12 centers throughout Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee; Sherwood Urgent Care (seven centers in Arkansas); Baptist Health Urgent Care (four centers in Arkansas); and Physicians Care (eight centers throughout eastern Tennessee).