Five years ago hospitals had only a marginal presence in the urgent care clinic industry. Now they own about a quarter of all urgent care clinics. That’s according to the Urgent Care Association of America, as reported Tuesday in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
It’s easy to understand the motivation of hospitals. They want the referrals for follow-up care generated by the clinics. They also recognize that health care has become more consumer-oriented. Urgent care clinics in general are much more consumer-friendly than hospitals. They are typically more geographically accessible; their hours are more convenient; and they are much, much less expensive.
Recognizing that they aren’t necessarily experts at “retail” health care, hospitals are more likely to own clinics through joint ventures than outright. And their joint venturers typically are experienced in retail. The Baton Rouge-area hospital executive cited in the Times-Picayune article reports its urgent care clinic board includes members with experience in retail sales and the food industry, in order to draw on their experience in understanding and attracting consumers.