Franchising Opportunities Abound In Healthcare
Convenient. Affordable. Customer-friendly. These are words that are often associated with consumer-facing retail businesses though rarely with healthcare. That is beginning to change as consumers are relying less on the paternalistic model of the past in which doctors make all the decisions and patients just go along. Instead, consumers are starting to take active control of their healthcare choices. As a result of this shift, providers have begun to unbundle certain routine healthcare practices that can be delivered quickly and easily from the more complex healthcare system.
Treatment for back pain is a good example. Rather than making an appointment with a doctor weeks in advance, consumers can obtain the same service on a walk-in basis while out running errands or during their lunch break. Changes in insurance are also driving consumers to look at healthcare differently. Many services that were once fully covered under employer insurance plans may only be partially covered, if at all, under plans purchased through the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. Higher co-pays and deductibles also have consumers looking for less expensive alternatives.
All of these factors have led to the explosive growth of healthcare franchising over the past few years.
This phenomenon has manifested itself in many forms, including urgent care centers, chiropractic clinics, walk-in medical clinics, home care for seniors or the disabled, as well as facilities that specialize in dialysis, mammograms, MRIs and other consumer-focused services. The key is finding practices that occur routinely, are self-contained, simple and discrete, and require only a modest investment in equipment. Healthcare franchises that meet these criteria are well positioned to meet consumer needs in a changing marketplace.
One of the biggest is convenience. Often the healthcare experience is like being hungry only to find no restaurants open nearby. But healthcare franchises are often located in high-traffic areas such as shopping plazas or strip malls. Many do not require appointments, making it easy for patients to drop in, obtain services and return to their day. Evening and weekend hours add to the convenience. It’s definitely easier to get conditions diagnosed, injuries treated or receive regular preventive treatments if the care is easy to access. Franchises that offer simple, low-cost, routine services often have the ability to bypass insurance completely. Because they’re not tied to the complex healthcare system, they can offer affordable pricing that consumers pay directly – often at a lower cost than an insurance co-pay. This payment model makes these franchises even more attractive to consumers who are tired of fighting insurance companies over every nickel, as well as those who had to cease regular treatments because their insurance only covered a few visits.
For the franchisee, one of the most significant advantages of a healthcare franchise is the workforce is typically made up of well-educated service providers and other professionals. The service providers are licensed, which reduces risk. Their professional nature coupled with the fact that there are fewer employees makes the workforce easier to manage. The service delivery model for a healthcare franchise is relatively simple. There is minimal inventory to manage and few concerns about spoilage. Another advantage for the entrepreneur is that most healthcare franchises can be launched for a relatively small up-front investment. Additionally, it typically takes a year or less from the time the franchise agreement is approved to the time the doors open, which can help franchisees achieve a faster return on investment.
For all its advantages, one thing doesn’t change. To be successful, entrepreneurs investing in a healthcare franchise must be committed to being present and hands-on. It is a service, and in order for a service to be delivered properly, attention must be paid to the details. For those willing to make the commitment, however, the rewards – both financial and the personal gratification that comes from helping people – can be outstanding.
John Richards is former Starbucks president of North American operations and currently the CEO of The Joint Corp., a national operator, manager and franchisor of chiropractic clinics He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.