Years back, operators of urgent care centers differentiated themselves primarily through access: How many centers did they have? How conveniently located were they? Those things are still important. “But today, you have to do other things to be successful,” says Steve Savage, president and COO, Piedmont Urgent Care by WellStreet. That’s because of growing competition from other urgent-care operators, retail health facilities, even telemedicine. “You have to have a commitment to quality and great cycle times. You better be really good at what you do.”
Savage believes that Piedmont Urgent Care by WellStreet – which operates eight urgent care centers in metropolitan Atlanta, Ga. – is really good at what it does. And he says that Henry Schein Medical is an important part of its success.
Savage joined practice management firm WellStreet in 2011 with plenty of experience, having served as senior vice president of operations for Dental Practice Management Services, a dental practice management provider for facilities in six states under the operating brand Kool Smiles. Prior to that, he was west region division president for Rural/Metro Inc., a provider of privatized fire protection and ambulance services.
The same year that Savage joined WellStreet, the company brought aboard Lee Resnick, M.D., a respected name in the urgent care profession, as chief medical officer and chief quality officer.
“When we started, we came in with some preconceptions from our healthcare professional experience,” says Savage. Selecting locations for WellStreet’s centers was challenging – and critical – in the highly competitive Atlanta market. “But we eventually gained traction in the market, because of our placements, our real estate, our builds, the way we equipped and supplied our operations, and the quality we put into our centers. It was that quality and our excellence in customer service that ultimately attracted Piedmont to us.”
In May 2014, WellStreet and Piedmont Healthcare announced their partnership, creating Piedmont Urgent Care by WellStreet.
With supply- and equipment-related expenses second only to labor costs, it’s no surprise that Savage addressed WellStreet’s supply chain needs early on. He was able to draw on his experience in the dental market – in which Henry Schein is a major player – for direction.
“In the early days of the dental company, sales were driven by the local practitioner,” he recalls. Sales reps called on each site, pitching products. “As we grew, we found that was not the model that would serve us well. We needed a national rep, with whom we could negotiate for products in one setting.” Ultimately, the company was able to establish a consistent, uniform supply base across 140 dental offices in 17 states. Savage calls it a “system” approach to supply chain management.
It was an approach he sought to emulate in the urgent care market, but he knew he needed the help of a strong distributor.
“We evaluated key providers, sat down with the majors. Schein ‘got’ what we wanted to do, and that’s why WellStreet selected Schein as our primary supplier even before opening up our first urgent care center in 2012.”
In addition to fair pricing and reliable product delivery, WellStreet wanted two things from Schein: National representation, and assistance with product standardization across all urgent care sites.
“We wanted a national rep to deal with us centrally,” he says. The reason is simple: Each local rep carries a range of products, many of them quite similar, but with differences in quality and cost. Multiply that by the number of providers in each location, and the result is a proliferation of SKUs, confusion and, many providers whom may have his or her own product preferences. The only way to ensure “peace in the family” is to have medical leadership, senior providers from the field with assistance from a key supplier as well as senior leadership, evaluate and select products.
“Schein is a big factor in our selection of products for our ‘armamentarium,’ in combination with our physician leadership,” says Savage. “Making sure all our providers have what they need in order to provide quality medical care is critical. It is also critical that [supplies and equipment] are the same across the board. We have eight sites, and many of our employees work at all those centers over time. For them to be able to provide quality service and do it quickly, they need to know what is available in each location.” Standardization of equipment and supplies, and even in office layout, helps ensure they can do just that.
The system has some built-in checks and balances, he adds. “First and foremost, if the supplies we are providing to doctors, mid-level staff and others are not what they need or not of high quality, they will let you know. We have great communication throughout our organization.” Henry Schein helps with a quarterly business review. “Together we look at what’s important to Piedmont Urgent Care,” he says. “We look at where we’re focusing our product purchases and what might be the drivers behind that. And we look at some things we can do differently that might allow Henry Schein to offer us better service, better pricing and better quality.”
Piedmont Urgent Care by WellStreet has a vision to be the dominant urgent care provider in the Atlanta metro market, says Savage. And by affiliating with other healthcare systems, WellStreet intends to bring its model to other states in the Southeast region. “Healthcare systems know they need to have a presence in the [urgent care] segment of the market, but many understand they don’t do it well.” Affiliating with a firm such as WellStreet allows IDNs to quickly get up to speed.
WellStreet is also developing a platform in occupational health. Though occupational health differs in many ways from urgent care, Savage intends to bring the same system-wide approach to it.
Henry Schein figures to be a key part of the company’s growth strategy. “Any relationship starts with trust as well as quality, both in product and service,” he says. “Schein has been a great partner, helping us find solutions on the supply side and, beyond that, with financial relationships with others that are important to us.
“It’s a holistic relationships, which WellStreet trusts.”