The $38.5 billion urgent care industry is growing faster than ever. According to industry statistics, there are more than 9,400 urgent care centers in the United States —a 46 percent increase since 2014. Now is the opportune time to make your mark on the industry by opening your own practice.
These facilities provide medical care on an unscheduled, walk-in basis and primarily treat patients who have an illness or injury that requires immediate care but is not dire enough to warrant a trip to a hospital emergency room.
There are many things that factor into the business end of opening this type of medical center. We’ve put together a basic urgent care startup checklist to help you understand the steps needed to get off the ground.
1. Create a Business Entity
The first step on the urgent care startup checklist is for you to decide what type of business entity you plan to establish. There are various types of business structures, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company (LLC).
Because an urgent care center has the potential to generate profit, grow at a good pace, and carry a moderate amount of risk, an LLC is a good choice. An LLC can provide you with the following:
- Personal Liability Protection –Under an LLC, your personal assets (car, house, bank account) are protected in the event your business is sued or if it defaults on a debt.
- Tax Benefits –LLCs have options to customize their tax structure. This allows you to use the best tax strategy to benefit your urgent care business’s bottom line.
- Growth Potential –LLCs can grow in profit and risk because they provide personal liability protection and tax benefits.
- Build Credibility and Consumer Trust –LLCs gain more trust from banks and consumers than informal business structures like sole proprietorships. This can impact your business’s ability to receive loans and can affect marketability.
2. Acquire an Employer ID Number (EIN)
One of the key responsibilities on your urgent care startup checklist is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN). It is also referred to as the Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or the Federal Tax Identification Number. It is a unique nine-digit number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify your business for tax purposes. It is like a social security number but for businesses. You will need this number to open a business bank account, apply for business licenses, and file your tax returns.
3. Register and Research Your Business Name
Depending on the location and structure of your business, you may need to register your business with local and state governments. In most cases, the total cost to register your business will be less than $300. You can check with the secretary of state’s office in your area to find out what they require.
You will also need to research your business name availability. It may already be taken. You should also check to see if the domain name is available for your website.
You will want to make sure your business name and entity are approved before you get any signage, business cards, and brochures printed.
4. Establish a Business Bank Account
Once you’ve registered your business, the next step on your urgent care startup checklist is to open a business checking account and credit card account.
5. Create a Business Plan
One of the most important items on your urgent care checklist is to create a business plan that will be the foundation of your walk-in clinic. You’ll need to include the following:
- Executive Summary – Provides a summary of your entire proposal.
- Company Summary – Describes the organizational structure of your business and its key players.
- Services Description – Explains what services you will be offering and how you will price them.
- Sales and Marketing – Delivers an overview of how people will learn about your business.
- Management Summary – Highlights the ownership structure.
- Operational Plan – Details information on the facilities and staff, along with the supplies you’ll require.
6. Secure Funding
Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks on the urgent care startup checklist is securing funding for your new business. One of the primary reasons any new business fails is the lack of working capital during the startup phase. You’ll want to make sure you have a solid financial plan and robust funding to get your business off the ground. You will want to invest some of your own money and find other investors who are also willing to contribute funding before you approach a lender. The Small Business Administration has a lender match function to help you find funding for your urgent care clinic. In addition to a small business loan, you may also be eligible for federal funding in the form of grants, loans, or contracts if your walk-in clinic will serve the unmet needs of a community. Check out the Public Service Act for more information.
7. Research State Licensing Requirements
You will need to determine what type of licenses your urgent care center needs to operate in your area. To do this, contact the licensing agency in your state or check with the local chamber of commerce for assistance. Researching licensing requirements is an important task on your urgent care startup checklist because requirements in every state are vastly different. It can also take several months to get some licenses, so plan accordingly when considering an opening date.
8. Obtain Business Insurance
Before you open your urgent care clinic, it is imperative for you to get adequate business insurance. Here are some of the types of insurance you will need:
- Professional liability insurance – Also called “errors and omissions” insurance, this protects you from claims of negligence, malpractice, or incompetence.
- General liability insurance – This type of insurance protects you against claims involving third-party bodily injury and property damage arising from your product or operation.
- Cybersecurity insurance – With all the hack attacks, you may also want to consider an insurance policy that protects you from some HIPAA penalties arising from a computer breach that could expose sensitive information about patients.
9. Select a Location for Your Urgent Care
Where you choose to open your urgent care clinic will be one of the most important decisions you will make. You will want to select a location that is near your target patients. You will also want to make sure the location has high visibility and is easily accessible with plenty of parking. Analyze the demographics, competition, and market so you can make a sound decision on the location.
10. Hire Staff
Since your urgent care business will deal directly with patients in need of medical attention, you want to hire employees who reflect your vision and provide the best possible care. Your business reputation depends on the quality of care you provide. Networking is one of the best ways to connect with top-rated facility managers and quality medical professionals who may desire a change from the high-stress halls of the emergency room or need a change of pace from a primary care office.
11. Equipment and Services
Another essential step on the urgent care startup list is understanding the proper equipment you will need to run your business. From computer systems to exam tables, you will need to establish relationships with medical equipment wholesalers to get the best deals. You will also need to decide what services you will provide and at what cost.
12. The Franchising Option
If all the above is making you rethink opening your urgent care business, you might consider investing in a franchise such as American Family Care (AFC). One of the major advantages of becoming a franchise owner is that so many of these decisions and resources listed above are already in place.
If you have no experience in the field, a franchise will provide the necessary training and support. The business plan has already been created, and you, as the franchisee, simply follow the established model.
American Family Care is the original urgent care franchise, and its founder, Dr. Bruce Irwin, is an industry pioneer. AFC operates more than 240 clinics with 600 in-network physicians caring for nearly 3 million patients a year. AFC is the nation’s leading provider of urgent care, accessible primary care, and occupational medicine.
One of the biggest benefits of being part of a franchise is the business that comes through the partnership. You will receive the company’s name value and brand awareness that resonates with the customers. That means less time promoting the business and attracting clients, so you can focus on running daily operations. Marketing and PR are part of the franchise agreement, giving you additional visibility and additional customers. American Family Care franchise owners receive these benefits to help them establish and grow their businesses.
A lot of work and preparation goes into starting an urgent care business. The advantage to buying a franchise is that many decisions are already made, and the support and resources are there for you. Your chances of doing well with your venture are greatly increased when you join the ranks of franchisees rather than going it alone.
Click here to learn more about urgent care franchise opportunities with American Family Care or request more information.