Some of the most difficult decisions in figuring out how to start an urgent care revolve around selecting, designing and setting up the physical space.
Acquiring or constructing space for your new practice can be expensive, so you should know what you will need and can afford to meet requirements, while planning for future additions if possible.
General guidelines for sizing indicate that for each provider in your practice you will need four to five exam rooms (9' x 9'), one radiology suite, a centralized nursing area, and one procedure room. Your clinic must have a welcoming reception area, medical record/business office designed for privacy, an enclosed break room, doctor's office and adequate storage space. In addition, you will need restrooms in your waiting room, for your staff, for clinical use and for drug screening (preferably one designed with Department of Transportation rules in mind).
It's best to have shared space for reception, lab, and nursing areas when blending urgent care, occupational health, physical therapy, and/or primary care; however, planning for the future development of any of these services may require careful planning early on in order to reduce the construction cost and prevent possible poor patient flow.
Areas for your patients should be comfortable and efficient, while allowing for patient privacy. Your waiting room should be inviting with media, Wi-Fi, and a centralized nursing station. and discharge routing past the business office or reception desk. For patient privacy and efficiency, it's helpful to have the x-ray suite near the procedure room.
Your practice and budget will determine what your radiology requirements will be. A CR Suite (Computerized Radiology) can range between $65,000 for a with a picture archiving and communication system (PACS). A DR Suite (Digital Radiology) can cost up to $95,000, also with PACS. You must order a PACS to manage x-ray images in your new urgent care. Also remember, a physicist must work with you to finish plans and installation of your radiology suite, avoiding issues during final inspection.
Other capital equipment you will need to consider includes exam tables, diagnostic devices, and procedure lights. These can be leased, which provides greater tax deductions and avoids operational capital you might need for something else. Or you can purchase these items, with refurbished equipment a viable consideration. You will also want to limit duplicate equipment within the clinic.
You will want to include computer wiring, wireless access, counter space, water, and cabinetry in exam rooms. Also, be sure to include plenty of electrical outlets. If you are building your space, verify contractors' references and don't hire without looking at their completed work. Once building starts, regularly visit the site of your new urgent care and keep contractors on schedule and on design. However, recognize that there could be delays.
Start your urgent care center planning early with a well-designed business plan including a comprehensive timeline and a great location visible to passing traffic. Move on to financing, designing space and purchasing equipment. Be sure to start your credentialing and contracting, marketing and EMR/PM software selection 8 to 12 months before your projected opening date. You can be successful.