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Occupational Medicine Integration Boosts Urgent Care Sustainability and Growth

Posted By Laurel Stoimenoff, PT, CHC, Thursday, October 12, 2017

UCAOA currently identifies 7,639 urgent care centers in the U.S., up from just over 6,900 two years ago. This consistent growth, coupled with uncertainty about future payment models, has inspired many urgent care operators to explore, expand and diversify their product offerings to ensure a strong future. For many urgent care operators, a proven strategy has been the integration of occupational medicine (Occ Med). 

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, injured workers’ medical benefits exceed $31 billion per year yet, according to UCAOA’s annual Benchmarking Report, it represents a small percentage of revenue for many centers. Astute employers seek cost-effective alternatives to the emergency department during those hours when their workforce is active.  Onsite radiology, lab and medical services augmented by a seven-day schedule render the urgent care center an attractive option for both workers and employers.  

While the synergies of acute primary care and Occ Med abound, there are nuances associated with caring for injured workers and the new customer in the room…the employer.  Urgent care operators must ensure that their administrative, communication and clinical processes address the triggers that ensure not only a positive patient outcome, but also a favorable employer experience.  As one employer once said to me despite a long history of providing care for their injured workers, “You’re only as good as the last one treated.”   This is a service line where relationships determine results and urgent care centers need to adjust their delivery model or, if multi-site, consider selecting several geographically appropriate occupational medicine centers of excellence.

Diversify Your Patient and Payer Base
Adding Occ Med services to an urgent care center opens the door to new patient populations in the community. While traditional urgent care patients often seek care near their home, injured workers tend to seek services close to work.  The addition of the service automatically taps into a new, non-resident population.  While urgent care centers are prepared for illness and injury, illness tends to dominate unless an injured worker strategy is successfully pursued.  

Additionally, increasing overall reimbursement per visit can be accomplished through a more favorable payor distribution.  The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) reported that of the 42 states with industrial fee schedules, only two states reimbursed some services less than Medicare, while most compensated providers an average of 130% of the Medicare fee schedule.  Imagine favorable fee schedules with no patient responsibility toward payment.

Viability
The ever-changing healthcare landscape continues to put pressure on providers to secure strong reimbursement contracts with payers and strengthen the bottom line. When urgent care expands to include Occ Med services, new channels of revenue become available through stable partnerships with community employers and expanded patient populations. While employer satisfaction is essential, they know that management of a work-related injury becomes a team sport, and a favorable patient experience is more likely to result a positive clinical (and financial) outcome. A positive work-related injury experience in the urgent care center should translate to future traffic if it’s done right.   Additionally, injured workers often require follow-up care so while the cost of patient acquisition may be higher, it is more than offset by the revenue associated with the injury care.

Sustainability
Integrating Occ Med services allows urgent care centers to remain resilient to industry changes that may arise in the future. Offering a variety of on-demand services empowers urgent care centers to keep pace with the demand for convenient, patient-focused healthcare options. Patients and employers share a common need when the unexpected occurs…ready access to affordable, quality, one-stop healthcare.

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Join us at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California for UCAOA’s Fall Conference where industry experts will present both clinical and practice management tracks focused on occupational medicine and employer services. The conference takes place October 26-28. For more information on this and other session topics, please visit the conference website: ucaoa.org/2017Fall

Tags:  ceo  health  occupational healthquality of care  on-demand services  patient care  urgent care 

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