Benchmark Research has announced that it is relocating its investigative site locations as part of the launch of six new urgent and family care centers. The U.S.-based site network said it has already begun construction in high traffic retail areas in Austin, Texas; New Orleans, La.; and Sacramento, Calif., with plans to open three more Benchmark Urgent & Family Care Centers in San Francisco and Fort Worth and San Angelo, Texas, in 2016.
“We see a fundamental change in the nature of the [healthcare delivery] business,” said Mark Lacy, founder and CEO of Benchmark Research. “Namely, more and more physicians are either closing their practices, selling them to hospitals and health networks, entering concierge medicine and becoming employees of larger companies.”
Benchmark Research has executed this new strategy in anticipation of a shift within the healthcare delivery market that will trigger fewer independent practicing physicians available to support clinical trials. At the same time, the Affordable Care Act is driving changes in patient willingness to pay out of pocket for medical care. Through this strategy, Benchmark Research is positioning itself to capitalize on the growing role of conveniently located urgent care centers that can act as more efficient referral sources for clinical trials.
“Often physicians do not proactively negotiate terms with their new employees [hospitals and health systems] to acknowledge and allow ongoing clinical research activities within their contracts through the mergers and acquisition process,” said Jennifer Byrne, CEO of PMG Research, an integrated network of clinical research sites. “In our experience, failure to proactively plan for integration within the newly structured practice might well prohibit or significantly impact the newly employed physician’s ability to devote time to clinical research activities.”
There are an estimated 9,000 urgent care centers operating in the U.S. nationwide. These walk-in centers do not require an appointment and physicians are able to treat a wide variety of non-life threatening medical problems and injuries ranging from flu/colds, skin rashes and infections to ankle sprains and fractures as well as chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. Most urgent and family care centers accept Medicare along with most medical insurance plans while competing with hospitals to treat non-life threatening medical problems.
Concentra, one of the largest nationwide owners of urgent care centers, estimates that 84% of cases in hospital emergency rooms are not actual emergencies. Where hospital emergency departments may charge $180 with a 20% co-pay for the average insured patient, an urgent care center may cost $45 in out-of-pocket expenses for the average insured patient, a potential 75% cost savings.
“Success for this model is predicated on the business operator’s ability to build a sound infrastructure and processes that support the distinct differences between the business of urgent care medical practice and the business of clinical research,” said Byrne. She added that the integration between clinical practice and clinical research is building momentum.
“We’ve worked with the biggest consultants in the field, and they say these convenient medical facilities are morphing to urgent and family care as the vast majority of people using them are between 18 and 44 years old, including many with families who often don’t have a primary care physician,” said Lacy. “The lower cost, expanded hours and retail convenience is translating into more patients heading toward an urgent care model over traditional emergency and family practice settings,” he said.
Benchmark Research expects that the integration of clinical trial conduct and urgent and family care practice ultimately will raise principal investigator experience levels and will offer more choice for patient care, resulting in higher recruitment rates. In addition, integrated centers are able to share operating and infrastructure costs (e.g., real estate, personnel and variable costs including advertising and marketing expenses).
“I was at a conference in Nashville when the light bulb went off,” Lacy said. “This might be the answer to a real problem and potential crisis that I have seen developing over recent years in the clinical research industry.”
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