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How to Add Allergy Treatment to Your Clinic’s Portfolio

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, including 40% of children and 30% of adults.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, including 40% of children and 30% of adults, according to WebMD. If your practice serves patients with untreated or poorly controlled allergies, adding an allergy service can improve access to care and boost your business.

Not everyone needs to see an allergist. Turns out, a majority of people with seasonal and perennial allergies would rather seek treatment from a primary care physician for their symptoms, according to a national survey by United Allergy Services. A primary care physician-based allergy service can be a safe and convenient alternative for many patients.

STATUS QUO: A LOSE-LOSE PROPOSITION

When allergies act up, people often reach for over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids. Or, they ask about prescription medication to ease their symptoms. But allergy medicines don’t always provide full relief and can pose side effects.

Even if you refer patients to an allergist, you might not know whether they actually followed through. Care coordination can be a real problem, too. In addition, patients who start on the same medication that didn’t initially work may be dissatisfied with their care.

Add Other Ancillary Services

Looking for additional ancillary services for your clinic? Check out these other services that can serve your patients’ needs while adding new revenue streams.

SETTING UP AN ANCILLARY ALLERGY SERVICE

There’s a better way to serve symptomatic patients. Why not work with an outside vendor to bring allergy care into your practice? Many companies offer “turnkey” solutions. That being said, business models can vary widely. Those models can include:

  • Selling allergy test kits to primary care doctors.
  • Supplying doctors’ offices with liquid allergy drops, known as sublingual immunotherapy. (Health insurers typically don’t cover these treatments.)
  • Formulating individual patient’s allergy shots (called subcutaneous immunotherapy) and injection schedules for physicians to prepare and administer.
  • Establishing on-site allergy testing and treatment centers.

Physicians who wish to maintain control of all allergy-related medical services can select a vendor that specializes in setup, staffing and operations. “By having more than just a turnkey relationship, they are able to generate significant revenue,” says Mike Malec, sales director for key accounts for United Allergy Services.

Physician offices can work with a vendor to treat the common allergies for their patients. For example, United Allergy Services partners with physician offices and specializes in serving low-risk patients with mild-to-moderate allergies to:

  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Animal dander
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches

Companies like United Allergy Services will employ, train and embed a technician in your practice to conduct on-site testing and prepare allergy shots for at-home or in-office administration. United Allergy Services buys all allergens and supplies, develops patient education materials and assists with appeals of payment denials. The physician partner identifies patients for testing, orders immunotherapy when needed, and provides supervisory and consultation services.

WHAT YOU NEED TO GET STARTED

If your practice has a furnished, HIPAA-compliant exam room to spare, plus a dedicated refrigerator, sharps disposal service and emergency medical supplies (including epinephrine), then you’re already well on your way to opening an allergy center.

How profitable are ancillary allergy services? It depends on the size of the practice, its insurance profile and patient demographics. A typical two- to four-provider practice collaborating with United Allergy Services can expect to make anywhere between $50,000 and $200,000 annually in net income per location, Malec says. That’s pure profit, after fees. A provider with more than one location can set up allergy centers at each site.

United Allergy Services charges its partners a per-patient fee for services ordered and performed. “In most instances, they’re not paying us just to be there; they’re paying us whenever they order the service,” he explains.

What to Know

Rather than referring patients with allergies to a specialist, physician offices can keep them in-house with the addition of an allergy treatment service. It’s more convenient for patients and provides a new revenue source for you.

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS AND CLINICAL RELATIONSHIP

If your practice is experiencing a demand for allergy services, the solution is simple. On-site allergy testing and immunotherapy treatment lets you keep those referrals and reimbursements in your practice.

Keep these best practices in mind before signing on the dotted line with an allergy service partner:

  • Determine whether allergy services would be a good fit for your practice. It might not make sense for a largely geriatric population with complex needs, for instance.
  • Learn all you can about the vendor’s business model, including patient services and back-office support.
  • Ask for data on the safety and efficacy of the vendor’s allergy protocol.
  • Ask for references.
  • If the promise of a $1 million per-year profit seems too good to be true based on your size and patient volume, you’re probably right.

If you determine that offering allergy services makes sense for your practice, you can expect to improve your bottom line while meeting this important need for patients rather than referring the business to someone else.

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