Employee Health Care starts regional network in Arbutus Glen Burnie, Essex to get offices soon

a rival to Concentra

Occupational medicine

July 14, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

With the doors open at its first occupational medicine center, a start-up company is targeting the Baltimore-Washington region with aggressive plans to open 10 to 20 centers over the next year.

Employee Health Care began operations yesterday in Arbutus. Plans call for openings in Cheverly, Essex and Glen Burnie within the next month, and four more by the end of October, said Quinten Davis, president.

When all its centers are open, Davis said, they will have about 250 employees.

The privately held company is taking on the market leader, Concentra Managed Care, which vaulted to No. 1 over the past three years with the purchase of three occupational health companies. It operates eight centers in the Baltimore area.

But industry experts say the new challenger can find a spot.

"There's plenty of room in the market for other players," said Dr. Edward J. Bernacki, director of occupational medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Large employers tend to channel injured workers to Concentra or to hospital-based programs such as the ones at Hopkins and Mercy Medical Center, Bernacki said, but most people work for small employers and seek treatment for on-the-job injuries from their own doctors or from emergency rooms.

Even with its strong position, Concentra's market share is about a quarter of its target, said Thomas Ward, regional manager. Second-tier providers such as Hopkins and Mercy are considerably smaller, Bernacki said.

Boston-based Concentra has 145 occupational medicine centers in 39 markets in 20 states. Its regional headquarters in Howard County manages two dozen mid-Atlantic centers.

Concentra is entering the Virginia market and is looking at other Maryland sites, Ward said.

Davis used to work for the largest of the Baltimore companies Concentra bought, Baltimore Industrial Medical Center, then became director of operations for Concentra.

Concentra "had acquired all the significant occupational medicine players and had, in effect, a monopoly," he said. "Employers felt they didn't have a choice, and Americans like choice. That gave me the idea that there was a place for another significant player in Maryland."

Davis said he developed the plan for Employee Health Care along with people he had worked with at Concentra or at Baltimore Industrial Medical Center. Those colleagues, he said, now form much of the management team for the new company.

Employee Health Care will differentiate itself in the market by using smaller, more intimate centers, Davis said: "A medical center that sees 200 patients a day has the feel of a clinic, and that builds a certain perception from the patient's point of view. We want to put together a network of facilities with the feel of a doctor's office, not a clinic."

Small centers, he continued, dictates "a model of retail distribution -- we need a lot of sites to reach all the employers." The centers will be open in the evening; some will be open 24 hours, he said.

In addition to treating on-the-job injuries, Employee Health Care will offer services such as pre-employment physicals and workplace safety evaluations.

Robert M. Mains, a health care analyst with Advest Inc., a brokerage in Albany, N.Y., said occupational medicine is such a "fragmented" business that it is unusual for a local company to build the kind of market position Concentra holds.

In general, he said, a more likely challenger to Concentra in a market would be one of the national health firms with outpatient centers that are beginning to move into occupational medicine such as HealthSouth, based in Birmingham, Ala., or NovaCare, with headquarters in King of Prussia, Pa.

Both have outpatient rehabilitation and therapy centers in the Baltimore area, and NovaCare announced the acquisition of two more last week. But Lynn Gionta, public relations manager for NovaCare, said the physical therapy practices it acquired here were not an attempt to develop an occupational medicine business, which is handled by a separate division within the company.

Davis said he believes Employee Health Care will have an advantage in that so many of its managers and physicians have extensive experience in occupational medicine in Maryland, making them familiar with local employers and with state workers' compensation rules.

The investors in Employee Health Care, Davis said, are the doctors who own Multi-Specialty Health Care, a chain of about a dozen clinics in the Baltimore area that specializes in automobile accidents and other types of injuries.

Employee Health Care has also been using Multi-Specialty office space as it gets going and, Davis said, plans to rent space for centers in two medical buildings owned by Multi-Specialty. Other than that, he said, the two businesses are not related.

Multi-Specialty, Davis said, "is a personal injury practice, very different from our practice. There will be no cross-referrals. There's a different group of practitioners, a different group of therapists."

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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