American Family Care Recruits Doctors for Urgent Care Clinics
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
There are a number of ways of reducing a shortage of physicians in the River Region including a long-term solution of training more doctors through local medical schools.
A short-term solution is bringing physicians from other areas to practice in the River Region, and that is exactly what American Family Care is doing. There are numerous residency programs in the Atlanta area and Emory University is one of the largest residency hospitals in the country, said Dr. Glenn Hartnett, chief medical officer of American Family Care. He said there are dozens of other hospitals there with family medicine programs.
It all adds up to a glut of physicians in the Atlanta area and that adds up to 16 to 20 full-time physicians at American Family Care/Baptist Health’s eight locations in the River Region, along with another five to nine part-time physicians. The two companies merged to form AFC PrimeMed clinics.
Harnett said that he tells physicians, “If it’s going to be a ‘doc-in-the-box’, it’s a really beautiful box and we’re hiring really great docs.”
It’s a pretty easy sell to convince a physician to move from the Atlanta area to the River Region. “We’ve found that there are people that are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle and particularly the traffic that’s going on in Atlanta,” Harnett said. “They are interested because we pay a salary that is commensurate with what they could make in Atlanta. Yet, they could live here without the traffic.”
There’s much more than salary and a lot, lot less traffic. There are not the costs and the headaches associated with operating your own medical office nor the complicated and confusing paperwork. No late-night emergency calls. Regular hours and days off. A normal life. “It’s a much more physician-friendly atmosphere,” Harnett said.
Katherine Marsh, a senior physician recruiter for American Healthcare Resources, an American Family Care company, said, “We just want you to practice medicine.”
Business has been so strong that AFC PrimeMed clinics need more physicians for the River Region locations – five in Montgomery, two in Prattville and one in Wetumpka.
“I can hire six to eight full-time physicians tomorrow,” Harnett said. Some of the clinics are so busy the company needs three physicians working at the same time. “Expansion of the River Region market is definitely not out of the question,” Harnett said. “Anywhere you might find a Walmart and a Chick-fil-A … they have already done the demographics and traffic counts. If they think they can succeed, there’s probably a need for an urgent care center.”
The company plans to open clinics this year in Enterprise and Gadsden and another in Georgia after growing from 25 clinics 3½ years ago to 60 today.
Full time means four 10-hour shifts a week and two weekends a month. Physicians are typically offered 12- or 18-shift monthly contracts, according to Harnett. A part-time physician works three shifts a week and there are some physicians who moonlight and may work a few shifts a month, according to Marsh.
Some physicians may work three shifts in a row and commute from the Atlanta area. American Family Care pays for the physician’s hotel expenses. The company also offers a relocation package and pays moving expenses for physicians to live in the River Region.
“When we can get docs full time, it’s much better for us than having a bunch of part-time doctors coming in that don’t necessarily understand our patient-focused philosophy of customer service,” Harnett said. “When we have doctors that are full time, we can teach them and train them on how to be the kind of doctors that we want them to be.”
The urgent care clinics serve several purposes, including alleviating some of the volume of patients overwhelming a primary care doctor’s office. AFC PrimeMed clinics “are the perfect place” during flu season, Harnett said. If your child has a sore throat and cannot see their pediatrician for a couple of days, “We’re the right place to come for that,” he said.
Harnett also cited an example of treating a cut finger that requires stitches. It’s $150 at the urgent care facility and could be $900 in an emergency room. “We definitely fill a role,” Harnett said.
With the Affordable Care Act and a lot of people with high-deductible health insurance plans, urgent care facilities are cost effective, Harnett said. “They will want to manage their health care dollars in a more economical fashion and clearly going to an urgent care facility vs. the cost of an emergency department is a no-brainer.”