IB_3Qs_Patel_406x275.jpgWith a need to add more entry points for patients, CHI Franciscan Health decided to build out its urgent care clinics, adding to the eight it already had in the Puget Sound region. But rather than going it alone, the nine-hospital network decided to partner with CityMD urgent care operator, which has 50-plus locations around New York City. The partners plan to open about five locations in the Pacific Northwest in the next year and a half, with 50/50 ownership and CityMD managing the sites. H&HN spoke with CEO Ketul Patel to review the thoughts behind this partnership.

Why did you decide to pursue this partnership?

PATEL: A few months after I arrived here [in February 2015], I got our executive team together and we identified 12 strategic priorities to focus our system’s efforts on delivering exceptional quality care and patient experiences. As we did that, we also found that consumers were demanding greater access to high-quality, convenient care that complemented their busy lifestyles. So, we really saw this as a potential opportunity to be in a market with a strong partner that had done this before, and do it in a very, very fast-paced way. When you look at CityMD and its model, what drove us to that is they really are a market differentiator. Most of the urgent care sites here are staffed by nurse practitioners. CityMD’s are very focused in terms of having emergency department-trained physicians and a tremendously strong “after care” service.

What makes this arrangement with CityMD different from others?

PATEL:  First, you have to look at the partner. We always align with our mission, vision and values, and CityMD was a strong partner for us in those areas. You have to look at what it has accomplished in and around New York City. I came most recently from New Jersey and had an opportunity to spend some time with them before I got here. What you see is an organization that has been very focused and fast-paced. They have a significant number of urgent care sites that are [doing well] in the New York metro area — which all of us agree is one of the most fast-paced metropolitan markets, not only in this country, but in the world — and they’ve done it in a very, successful way. They’re going to have a powerful presence here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s CityMD's first time coming out West. We had a significant need, and the partnership was strong because of that. But what makes it unique, outside of an ED-trained physician group providing these services, is that they have the after care program, staffed by physicians, clinicians and coordinators who call patients after a visit to see how they responded to the treatments. It’s not just about the singular event of coming into urgent care and addressing the issue on hand. They follow you after you’ve come in and help to make some follow-up appointments with a CHI Franciscan provider. So, it attaches us collectively with them outside of that singular event when they come in for their urgent care visit.

Why go the route of partnering rather than doing this alone?

PATEL: We have “prompt cares” and some urgent care clinics in this market, but I believe strongly that when you’ve got a model that’s successful, speed to market is very important. Partnering with a strong organization like CityMD that has demonstrated the clinical quality and patient outcomes we want is the right way to do it. When you talk to a lot of CEOs around the country, we all believe that there are opportunities to build your own. But when you have others who are doing things in a “benchmark way,” why not partner and bring them into your market to work collaboratively with you to develop the product that you want? I think we all always want to own and operate things on our own, but when you have partners like CityMD, it’s just a way to raise the bar for us and focus our, in essence, human and economic capital on existing services. The only advice I have for other CEOs is to be very open to partnerships long term because there are a lot of people who are doing great things around the country.