Dr. Robert Gold, a Santa Ana general practitioner, specializes in non-surgical face-lift procedure that draws a high-class clientele from Beverly Hills. A Huntington Beach resident, Gold said he was looking to market his skills closer to home in the nearby and affluent Newport Beach region.
But Gold faced an expense of at least $100,000 merely to furnish a Newport Beach office and examination room with enough style to impress the patients he sought.
In Laguna Hills, Drs. Stephen F. Lindsay and John W. Puckett, partners specializing in the treatment of diseases afflicting the veins and arteries, had a similar problem. Lindsay said many of their Newport Beach patients are elderly and find it difficult to travel to the doctors' base offices near Saddleback and Mission Community hospitals, so they set up a satellite office in Newport Beach.
But they soon discovered that they were losing money on the deal because the branch office "sat idle 80% of the time," Lindsay said.
The solution for Gold, Puckett and Lindsay was to rent posh offices and exam rooms across the street from Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach--offices that are available at an hourly rate.
The doctors pay only for the time they spend in their rented offices in a suite in the Park Lido Medical Building. The hourly rates of $25 for an office and $15 for an exam room not only are much cheaper than the cost of setting up a full-time, permanent office, but the physicians are treated like guests in a fancy hotel.
'We pamper them," said Joyce Barnes, president and founder of Newport Medical Associates Inc., operator of the time-sharing medical office business.
Physicians using the offices can call on Barnes and her staff--a full-time receptionist and two part-time office workers--for the usual chores of answering telephones, booking appointments and even keeping track of billings, and for the unusual: concierge services ranging from shopping for gifts to placing restaurant reservations.
Even marketing services are available. Barnes is putting on a seminar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach next month on behalf of two plastic surgeons who use her offices.
Barnes raised $240,000 from investors to get the operation started. Then she held a meeting of Hoag Hospital doctors at the Balboa Bay Club to generate interest in the time-sharing concept. When the offices opened in September, Barnes sent out invitations--engraved and printed with silver ink--to the office suite's open house.
"That's basically our third office now," said Lindsay, one of the first of Barnes' customers. He said he uses the rented facilities because he wants to maintain a presence near Hoag Hospital. "Primary care doctors do not refer to specialists who do not have an office near the hospital," he said.
Presently, six doctors use the medical offices, housed in a 10-room suit. The minimum rental, Barnes said, is $100 for an office used four hours a week. Barnes said she expects to sign up three more physicians this month.
"I would like to say it was my idea," Barnes said in her office at the suite. "Actually, I read about it in a business magazine. A company in Chicago was doing it."
Barnes flew to Chicago about a year and a half ago to have a look at the time-sharing operation there. Located in a downtown high-rise near an inner-city hospital, the Chicago offices were "more utilitarian, for the masses," Barnes said.
A former real estate broker and office building developer, Barnes said she decided to cater to physicians whose skills attract patients from wealthy areas of the county, patients, she said, who often pay cash for their doctors' treatments.
"I told my medical supplier that I wanted everything first class," said Barnes, who stocked her five exam rooms with top-of-the-line medical equipment. The three doctors' offices are furnished with large glass-top desks and wall-length black-lacquered bureaus.
"This is the right atmosphere and the right town for people who can afford these types of services," said Gold, who estimated that he spends about 10 hours a week at Newport Medical Associates. "You know, they always had this type of thing for businessmen to use as a part-time or second office."
Originally, Barnes pictured the time-sharing concept as one that would be attractive to interns just out of medical school or retiring physicians who were phasing out their practice. But most of her clients, such as Lindsay, are established doctors with active practices who use the facilities for a satellite office, she said.