Doctors Express Urgent Care, a nationwide network of 75 independently owned urgent care medical offices, including five in New Jersey, is poised for a major expansion around the state.
Entrepreneur Albert Saad said he plans to open six Doctors Express locations over the next five years, including two in the coming months: in South Plainfield in January and West Orange in February.
Saad said he has raised capital from 18 investors — nine of them physicians. And while he would not disclose the amount of capital raised, he said each location represents an investment of more than $1 million each.
Saad said even though the practices are independent, each one operates like a franchise.
“From a business perspective, you have advantages — such as marketing, group purchasing power, working with vendors — by virtue of bringing the power of the collective to bear,” he said.
Saad has hired Dr. Avery Browne to be the medical director; Browne will divide his time between South Plainfield and West Orange. Physicians have been hired to cover the centers' extended hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. week days and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Currently, there are five Doctors Express locations in the state, all independently owned, in Paramus, Lyndhurst, Florham Park, Hamilton and Bound Brook.
Saad said he plans to be in-network with all the major health plans serving the state and will provide a far lower cost alternative to hospital emergency rooms, which tend to get jammed up with low-acuity injuries and ailments.
Saad said he has no trouble recruiting physicians, who are paid a competitive salary.
“From a physician's recruitment standpoint, the appeal is quite compelling,” Saad said.
The doctors are not on call around the clock, as they might be in the hospital arena, and they tend to like “the higher acuity inherent in being in an urgent care environment.
Clinically, they are using more of their skills and seeing more diversity.”
Then there is the lifestyle benefit: Since doctors are not on call or working overnight, it is a much better work-life balance.
Saad said he plans to open a new location every 12 to 18 months over the next five years until he reaches six; the locations of the other four have not yet been chosen.
“I looked at over 100 locations before deciding on South Plainfield and West Orange,” he said.
Saad said he will look for areas where there is demand for more urgent care. He said his 18 investors include nine physicians, eight of them surgeons; the others include investment bankers, lawyers and hedge fund professionals.
He said the fact that physicians have an appetite to invest in urgent care is “indicative of the value proposition. They understand health care, the insurer payment model and the regulatory complexity of a medical practice.” And they recognize that there is a shortage of primary care doctors in some areas, and the ER is a costly alternative. “They recognize that and they are willing to invest accordingly,” he said.
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