When Scharukh Jalisi, MD, a veteran head and neck surgeon at Boston Medical Center, took his son to a local emergency room for treatment of a broken arm, he was struck not only by the $6,000 price tag but by the inherent inefficiency of the system that provided his son’s care. He was convinced that there had to be a more efficient and cost-effective way to provide that care, so he started to research why a hospital visit for a simple fracture could cost so much money.
Before long, he learned that it was possible to provide the same quality of care at a fraction of the cost through the urgent care model. Moreover, he discovered a business opportunity that would alter the path and trajectory of his career.
“I started exploring alternatives and recognized the value of being part of a franchise urgent care operation,” says Dr. Jalisi, who in 2013, purchased the rights to open an AFC (American Family Care) Urgent Care location in Watertown, Massachusetts.
“As a franchise owner, you are invested in the community,” Dr. Jalisi says. “Being part of a network brings us value. Brand recognition has value. Loyal patients see our sign and know what kind of treatment they will receive when they walk through the door.”
The AFC franchise model allows owners to provide a high quality of care and focus on patients without getting overwhelmed by the regulatory aspect of medicine. While not all franchisees are physicians, the model is a particularly attractive one for doctors because they are often able to fill the most expensive staff position themselves, that of chief medical officer.
Dr. Jalisi has found that other medical staff positions are relatively easy to fill, as well, as physicians catch on to the perks of working for an AFC Urgent Care clinic.
“Younger doctors are attracted to the urgent care model,” he says. “It’s shift work and not an on-call system. Staff physicians get benefits, even bonuses, plus paid malpractice insurance and vacation time.”
For veteran doctors, it’s the chance to flee the grind of on-call 80-hour work weeks that encourages them to become AFC franchisees. They get a chance to become their own boss in a patient-focused environment that promotes work-life balance.
Steven Heffer, MD, owns two AFC franchises in Connecticut.
That’s what Steven Heffer, MD, a board-certified emergency room physician from Connecticut found in 2014, when he left the trauma unit to open his own AFC Urgent Care clinic in Bridgeport. He opened a second location in Fairfield a year later and now serves as Chief Medical Officer of both centers.
“I invested in the urgent care business because I recognized that it was the best way to help busy families who want quality, convenient and affordable health care,” Dr. Heffer says. “Illnesses and injuries don’t always happen Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. With our clinic being open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., we can really serve our community while offering hospitals, physicians and specialists a place to refer patients when they’re either too busy or closed.”
Dr. Heffer bought into the urgent care industry with more than 20 years of emergency room experience. He says physicians are leaving more traditional employment situations, and even their own practices, because the back office management and paperwork has become so overwhelming.
“AFC Urgent Care provides an established business model, so I don’t have to worry about making some of the mistakes that can hinder physicians when they open practices on their own,” he says.
The AFC franchise model makes the buying process easy for physician-owners like Dr. Heffer. With a smooth process implemented by AFC corporate, franchisees have access to established vendors to help locate a site and a management firm that takes the worry out of design and construction, plus they get competitive, pre-negotiated pricing on all the necessary equipment.
Other operating costs are also reduced by the buying power of the large network of clinics.
“Everyone has to buy supplies,” Dr. Jalisi says. “Buying them in bulk saves clinic owners money, and those savings can be passed on to the patient.”
Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, AFC has more than 160 clinics nationwide. Eighteen of those are in Massachusetts, including centers in Beverly, Methuen and Burlington. A little over half the clinics are independently owned franchise locations. Dr. Jalisi is also expanding, with plans to open a second AFC clinic in Arlington this summer.
Then he’ll join Dr. Heffer in a growing group of physicians who own multiple AFC franchises. For his part, Dr. Heffer takes pride in the fact that his AFC clinics provide service in two distinct cities with different demographics.
“Regardless of the demographic, our patients’ care and well-being are our primary focus,” he says. “We are committed to setting a new standard in urgent care, expanding access to quality medical services and becoming a trusted health resource for the local community. We’re helping people live healthier, longer lives.”
For more information about local franchise opportunities with AFC, please contact Rick Crews at MedVest, 413-754-3305.