A Prescription for Success
In the exploding field of healthcare services, this franchise has carved a niche between the doctor’s office and the ER.
It was about four decades ago when urgent-care centers started popping up in the U.S., a cheaper and faster alternative for those with medical issues that weren’t serious enough to go to an emergency room, but important enough that they couldn’t wait for a doctor’s appointment from their regular physician.
In 2005, a savvy entrepreneur founded Doctors Express, with the idea of creating an urgent care franchise, and the concept was so strong that he was able to sell it not long after to an investment banking firm. The problem was that the banking firm was not a great fit for a personalized business such as this, and so in April 2013, Doctors Express was acquired by its current owners, American Family Care.
Today AFC/Doctors Express is the largest urgent care franchise in the United States and enjoys a national reputation for delivering the highest levels of patient satisfaction in a broad range of medical services. With retail clinics offering limited services at one end of the market and hospital emergency rooms offering full acute-needs care, Doctors Express fills a void for patients who need more than a clinic but don’t want to wait in the ER.
“This is a niche that is both convenient and provides great medical care for people who don’t need critical care,” says Russ Smith, director of franchise development for AFC/Doctors Express. “You are easily going to spend 80 percent more money and most likely 80 percent more time in an emergency room—but you can come to Doctors Express and be out on average in less than an hour and for 80 percent
Another positive development of late is that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are charging co-pay for emergency room visits, which is driving more customers to urgent care providers.
Bypass the ER
“We are so much less expensive and more efficient than an emergency room. Your co-payment could be $250 in emergency room, but would be around $25 in urgent care,” Smith says. “We work with all insurance providers and because of the Affordable Care Act, they like us more
Among the patient services offered are acute illness treatment, trauma treatment, travel medicine, sports injury treatment, and minor surgical care. The facilities, which have on-site pharmacies, also provide laboratory and X-ray services. “Our targeted demographic is anyone who needs non-critical healthcare without an appointment,” Smith says.
He adds that one doesn’t need to be a doctor to obtain a franchise. In fact, 85 percent of franchisees are not doctors and most did not come from the medical field.
For those interested in starting a franchise, an initial process involves an application being reviewed and each franchisee is required to attend a “discovery day” in Alabama to learn all they need to know, have questions answered and meet the department heads and staff.
“We will evaluate their ability to fit into our culture and vice versa,” Smith says. “The initial investment is between $807,500 to $1.76 million and we require a net worth of $1.2 million and liquid capital of $550,000. The total investment includes the $55,000 franchise fee and working capital.”
The Doctors Express franchise management team consists of seasoned medical, business and franchise professionals who know how to build and run successful franchise businesses. With a proven background in the healthcare field, the team is uniquely qualified to facilitate the national expansion of urgent care. The ideal location
for this franchise is in prime retail areas with high traffic, not a business or medical park.
“We are probably one of the hottest industries and franchises going right now,” Smith says. “It’s driven by 32 years of building the business, the Affordable Care Act and an aging population, so it’s created the perfect storm.”
The urgent care centers also utilize top doctors in the field and because it has 50 corporate locations, Doctors Express has its own recruiting, which provides services to its franchise owners. “Doctors now are choosing more so today to be part of the urgent care world because of the quality of life that they get; a set schedule, no beepers and they still get to provide great healthcare to their patients,” Smith says. “As patients become familiar with the broad range of medical issues that can be addressed at AFC/Doctors Express, they will instantly think of our centers as the first place to go to have their health issues resolved.”