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National Health Care Staffing Agency to Open Local Franchise

BrightStar Healthcare plans to open its first San Diego franchise in March. Within five years, the Illinois-based health care staffing agency says it has plans to open 13 more franchises in the county.

Although the private concern is expanding nationally, larger demographics of baby boomers in San Diego and Orange counties, parts of Arizona, Nevada and Florida make these regions highly favored by national health care staffing companies such as BrightStar.

Nearly 11 percent of the San Diego population in 2007 was estimated to be 65 or older, according to the San Diego Association of Governments, a regional planning agency. By 2030, 17 percent of the 1.7 million estimated city residents will be at least 65 years old.

Fifty percent of BrightStar’s business currently comes from senior home care, with pediatric home care (20 percent) and staffing (30 percent) making up the remaining half, according to Shelly Sun, president of BrightStar.

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The agency, located near Chicago, provides staffing for both home care and corporate clients such as hospitals.

The company itself was founded in 2002 by Sun and her husband, JD, who struggled to find adequate care for his grandmother, who suffered from cancer.

AMN Healthcare Inc. is one of the largest health care staffing companies in the United States. The company was founded 25 years ago in San Diego and, unlike BrightStar, is not a franchise.

It does provide staffing for acute-care hospitals and health care facilities across the country and Chief Executive Officer and President Susan Nowakowski said in an e-mail that the “aging population will drive a greater need for healthcare professionals in all healthcare settings, in particular those which are serving the aging baby boomers and their parents.”


Business Is Booming

Although BrightStar says it does not disclose revenues, Sun says that the company had three locations two years ago but now has 42 committed franchises with 67 to be open in the next 18 months. The goal is 400 locations by the end of 2010.

Initial franchise investments range from $105,000 to $165,000 and include the initial fee of $35,000, office personnel and furnishings as well as $25,000 to $50,000 to cover the first three months of operating capital, according to the BrightStar Web site.

While general health care staffing agencies have been in demand, the target market for BrightStar includes counties with a higher than average aging population. To maintain BrightStar quality, Sun says that she selected the San Diego franchisees after a nine-month process that included more than 500 inquiries.

“There’s a huge difference,” said Sun, who is a former certified public accountant. “A lot of people look at growth in the industry and see the financial rewards.”

The first county location will be in the Miramar area, according to Gene Lin, a former private practice psychiatrist who is opening the franchise with his wife, Ruey. Three others will follow in North County. Sun says that the company allows franchise owners to have a maximum of four locations.

“I’ve noticed that hospital stays are getting shorter and shorter,” Gene Lin said. “There is a need for health care at home, especially because of the demographics of the population.”

Unlike some other health care staffing companies, BrightStar does not accept payment from Medicare and Medicaid. The agency is strictly private pay or long-term health insurance, according to Sun.


Golden State Growth

In the past year, BrightStar has expanded its presence in California, moving into Chico, Riverside and Lafayette. Sun says that, in terms of competition, most of the other agencies have nonmedical backgrounds or cannot provide the customer service to franchisees that BrightStar does.

“It’s a better and different experience,” she said.

At the agency’s corporate headquarters, there is a staff of 22 employees. A typical franchise has two to three staff members and anywhere from 30 to 60 field employees, according to Lin.

The company’s Web-based management system “integrates personnel management, payroll and billing, and sales,” according to a media release. The technology eliminates 1.5 office positions, according to Sun.

The San Diego franchises will try to build a client base from the local military presence through contracts, Lin says.

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