7 Questions to John Radford, MD, owner and founder of Buffalo-based WellNow Urgent Care

With recent acquisition and new sites, WellNow today has more than 30 facilities in NYS. Owner, who launched the business in 2012, plans to open 14 new locations this year alone, including some around Chicago

By Payne Horning

Physician John Radford during the opening of a WellNow Urgent Care in Vestal. Radford is the founder and owner of WellNow, which has more than 30 locations in New York, mostly Upstate. He’s planning 14 new facilities this year, including in the suburbs of Chicago. He started the business in 2012.
Physician John Radford during the opening of a WellNow Urgent Care in Vestal. Radford is the founder and owner of WellNow, which has more than 30 locations in New York, mostly Upstate. He’s planning 14 new facilities this year, including in the suburbs of Chicago. He started the business in 2012.

1. Tell us a little about your background in health care.

I am an emergency room doctor turned healthcare entrepreneur. In my almost 20 years as an entrepreneur, I have been driven to find ways to keep patients healthy and safe in a rapidly changing health care industry. Appropriately, the companies I’ve founded share a common commitment to offering quality care that is accessible, affordable and quick. I’ve always believed that patients come first.

2. How did your experience in the industry contribute to your decision to create a chain of urgent-care facilities?

In my time working in the emergency room, I worked closely with health systems, doctors and patients. This gave me a firsthand appreciation for the challenges faced by healthcare practitioners and patients. It’s an up-close experience, and you truly empathize with the emotional and financial complexities that patients face. I saw an opportunity to provide greater and convenient access to non-emergent care that put patients first. This inspired me to create Five Star Urgent Care, which today is WellNow Urgent Care.

3. Since 2012, your company has quickly expanded its presence in New York state – and continues to grow today. Was that expansion and large footprint always part of the plan?

From our earliest beginnings, we have always been committed to serving communities where there is a need for greater access to quality urgent care. Our growth is a reflection of the rapidly growing urgent care industry across New York state. It connects directly to how we provide our communities’ residents with greater access to quick and convenient medical care for non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses. Today, we have more than 30 locations and are one of New York’s fastest growing urgent care providers. We are very proud of that.

WellNow Urgent Care is not currently located outside New York state but we do have plans to expand to the Illinois area with locations in Crestwood and Evergreen — both suburbs of Chicago — in 2019.

4. In October, Five Star rebranded itself as WellNow. Why the change and what does it represent? 

The name “WellNow” ties back to our company’s strong history of putting the needs of our patients first. We believe the new brand best aligns with our mission of providing high quality, quick and convenient urgent care. It also reinforces our focus on empowering every patient when it comes to managing their healthcare decisions about where, when and how they receive treatment. For us, the name is a true representation of our service and our standards of getting patients and their families back to being well. Now.

5. How is WellNow addressing the medical needs of Upstate New York? 

The urgent care industry continues to grow, both in Upstate New York and across the country. As a Western New York native and longtime healthcare practitioner, I’ve seen it firsthand and saw the need for an urgent care network that can match this region’s growing demands for quality care. This is especially true for smaller communities where it’s common for care to be less accessible.

We address this in a few ways. WellNow employs highly talented and experienced urgent care providers. We have more than 600 employees, which include 95 percent full-time staff. This allows us to truly get to know our business, so that we can deliver quality, convenient care with consistency. Our recent growth, which includes Western New York’s MASH Urgent Care joining our network, also means that we are able to serve an even greater number of communities — both in Upstate New York and across the state.

6. What role does urgent care play in the larger health care industry, and has it changed at all in recent years?

As the urgent care industry continues to grow, we are always looking for ways to stay ahead of our field by continually making ourselves available to patients.

For example, demand for urgent care clinics is growing rapidly. Patients seeking medical care often don’t want to wait. By offering longer hours, walk-in service and the opportunity to check in online, urgent care centers can fulfill patients’ needs in a way that traditional doctors’ offices often cannot. Financial burden is another consideration. Urgent care centers can sometimes provide an alternative to emergency departments and facility fees. It’s a way to provide middle ground to care for non-emergent needs.

We’re cognizant of all of these things — capacity, hours, convenience and more. We don’t take our status for granted and are always looking for new ways to stay connected with patients. Trust is earned, not to be expected.

7. What is next for WellNow?

We are continuing to grow. Looking ahead, we have plans to open approximately 14 new locations in 2019 which will allow us to further deepen our connections across New York state, while also starting to expand into Illinois.

Through it all, our commitment to putting patients first will never change. We deeply value the strong relationships with communities and individuals we serve. This passion is what brings us to work, every day.