Why the doctor who co-founded CityMD opened an urgent-care clinic in Queens even though he knew it'd lose millions
iStock; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
- CityMD founder Richard Park wanted to open up an urgent care location in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, but knew it would be a tough sell.
- In the end, CityMD lost more than $5 million, Park told Business Insider.
- Even so, the experience led CityMD to open more sites in lower-income areas of New York, and the Jackson Heights location is still open today.
Richard Park knew it was going to be a tough sell.
Park, the CEO of CityMD, wanted to set up an urgent care site in Jackson Heights, an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Queens not far from where he grew up. The idea would be to have a less-expensive alternative to the emergency room where a mother with two kids under the weather could go.
Park didn't have any Medicaid contracts lined up - and he let his board know that he expected to lose money opening the clinic. But his employees were excited: many were from the neighborhood and didn't have access to CityMD clinics without traveling far to other parts of New York City.
"It doesn't make sense when people don't get basic care," Park said. The clinic opened in 2014.
It was a big step: before then, CityMD had set up urgent care clinics in more affluent neighborhoods like the Upper East Side of Manhattan and out in the suburbs. The new location started under a different brand name, HEAL, short for Health Education Access and Love.
"Everyone told us they can't coexist, you can't take care of billionaires next to the Medicaid patient," Park said.
Read more: The doctor who founded CityMD and sold it for $600 million explains how a new kind of medical clinic is changing how Americans get healthcare
In the end, CityMD lost north of $5 million at the location. But the pilot was a success. The site in Jackson Heights led CityMD to open locations in other lower-income areas of the city, including the South Bronx.
Since then, the company has managed to ink contracts with Medicaid health plans, and Park said about 15% of CityMD's visits come from patients who get their health coverage through Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program that provides coverage for low-income people.
As for the Queens location? After six months, the clinic returned to the name CityMD, and it's still open today.
To date, CityMD has more than 100 locations in New York, New Jersey, and Washington state. And in April 2017, private-equity firm Warburg Pincus took a majority stake in CityMD in a deal that reportedly valued the urgent-care company at $600 million.
"We have sites in the South Bronx because of that experience," Park said. "You don't just go from the Upper East Side to the South Bronx. There is a learning curve."
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