TULSA, Okla. — When Lou Ellen Horwitz first learned that a gas station company was going to open a chain of urgent care clinics, she was skeptical.
As CEO of the Urgent Care Association, Horwitz knows the industry is booming. Its market size has doubled in 10 years, as patients, particularly younger ones, are drawn to the convenience of the same-day appointments and extended hours offered by the walk-in clinics.
“Urgent care is harder than it looks,” Horwitz recalled thinking when the Tulsa-based gas station and convenience store company QuikTrip announced an urgent care venture called MedWise in late 2020. “And that’s a whole different ballgame than selling Funyuns.”
But Horwitz said the more she thought about it, the more she saw an overlap between the business models of QuikTrip and of successful urgent care clinics: setting up in easy-to-find locations, catering to walk-ins, and accepting multiple payment methods, for example. QuikTrip opening health clinics might just make sense, she thought, provided they could deliver quality medical care.
In fact, QuikTrip had been providing primary care services to its own employees for years, through third parties and eventually at its own clinics. Five years ago, longtime “QuikTripper” Brice Habeck was tasked with leadibring a team to figure out how the company could offer such medical services to the general public, too. His team quickly realized that urgent care had a lot in common with their retail spaces.
“It’s about access. It’s about convenience,” said Habeck, who started his career as a clerk at a QT, as the stores are often branded, and is now the executive director of MedW …