Article

Independent agents: capitalizing on the health clinic marketplace

The increasing number of health clinics across the nation constitutes a new trend in today’s healthcare system. According to Forbes, there are 7,639 urgent care centers in the country that make up an $18 billion industry. As a result, some of the best independent agents in the country are capitalizing on this emerging market and growing their books of business.

Expansion of health clinics

Walk-in clinics are a relatively new addition to the American healthcare landscape, only dating back about 15 years. Given the success, however, they’re expected to continue to multiply for years to come. This recent growth is driven by quality care at lower prices and the shortage of primary care physicians nationwide.

Today, consumers can get much of the same medical attention in a clinic setting that previously required treatment in an emergency room, usually faster and at a lower cost. Consumers are heading to health clinics for treatment of more common ailments, like sore throats or respiratory infections. Often, the cost of treatment at a clinic is significantly lower than treatment for the same ailment at a hospital. With many consumers paying a larger share of healthcare costs than in the past, they’re looking to compare and select options that best fit their budgets.

The other reason health clinics have increased in popularity is the significant shortage of primary care physicians; a deficit that is expected to hit record numbers in less than five years. This growing shortage is making it increasingly challenging for consumers to find primary care doctors, leading many patients to turn to walk-in clinics instead. Fortunately, this is something that is comforting for many patients. Research shows the majority of consumers are more comfortable at clinics than at hospitals and traditional doctors’ offices. This especially rings true for millennials, who are leading the trend in turning to clinics.

Benefits for agents

The increase in health clinics has some interesting implications for independent insurance agents. While larger hospital facilities are typically self-insured, health clinics very often depend on the expertise of independent agents to set up individualized and comprehensive insurance programs. For agents looking to improve their agency’s economics, it’s a great time to capitalize on the opportunity to provide expert advice.

Today’s clinics are designed to perform a variety of medical tests and procedures, and their insurance programs should reflect these exposures. Agents in this market are ensuring health clinic clients are protected against an array of potential professional liability exposures, including scope of practice and credentialing, two main areas of concern.

Specialized independent agents understand the importance of defining the scope of practice for a clinic. Providing medical care to patients is no longer limited to doctors and nurses alone. Clinics hire a variety of healthcare professionals to administer patient care, meaning some patients may not need to meet with a doctor. As a result, agents in this marketplace are arranging for coverage that is broad enough to cover the many healthcare professionals providing services, including any nurse practitioners, physician assistants and primary care physicians on the policy.

Credentialing is another area of concern for clinics. Any medical professional who is hired by a clinic and administers patient care should be credentialed. Many of the most successful independent insurance agents in this space are teaming up with insurance carriers that can help them add value. It is important that a clinic’s professional liability policy is broad enough to cover its administrative services, which includes the credentialing of healthcare professionals.

Similarly, carrier partnerships can make all the difference when independent agents look to provide health clinic clients with a specialized approach to claims and risk management. When selecting comprehensive insurance protection for health clinic clients, the most successful agents are assessing each carrier’s capabilities, looking at the:

  1. Quality and tenure of the claims team:
    Healthcare organizations are often targets of litigation and many claimants in this arena will have multiple ailments, which can complicate any potential claims. Carriers that have a specialized claims team, staffed with experienced medical malpractice attorneys and adjusters with clinical capabilities, can help agents offer better protection to their clients. The top carriers will also have a strong network of outside attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice, providing enhanced protection for clinic clients.
     
  2. Clinical risk management services:
    Today’s agents know insurance protection should not be limited to handling claims as they happen, but should also offer support to healthcare organizations in the area of prevention. An insurance carrier that provides education around risk management and assessment can help lessen the likelihood of a malpractice claim for a healthcare client. For example, specialized carriers in this field may offer free online risk management training courses for clinics to share with their staff.

Winning independent agents are embracing this growing trend in health clinics and are taking advantage of the opportunity to provide expert advice and consultation to help protect their clients’ employees and businesses. By partnering with experienced, specialized carriers, independent agents can better serve their healthcare clientele, while improving their agencies’ economics.


Eric Paynter

About the author
Eric Paynter, vice president of Healthcare, has more than 25 years' experience underwriting professional liability, and is dedicated to serving the healthcare liability space — underwriting hospitals, allied healthcare facilities, senior living facilities and physicians.