By Laurel Stoimenoff, CEO of Urgent Care Association of America, published in March 2017 JUCM
Urgent care centers were the creators of convenient access to care for non-life and limb-threatening illnesses and injuries. Consumers embraced the convenience and the rest of the world noticed. New delivery models catalyzed by growing expectations for on-demand services have provided those seeking healthcare services more options than ever before. If you are feeling the impact, it may be a manifestation of the successful model you developed and now others are electing to modify or mirror it. To ensure that urgent care continues to thrive in the new on-demand marketplace, we must ask ourselves what we can do to renew our value proposition.
Where we begin remains as steadfast as ever: make sure the focus stays on the needs and expectations of the patient.
To do this, we must know what today’s patient is seeking and anticipate what tomorrow’s consumer will expect. With many choices for ready access to care, why choose urgent care?
Convenience is Still Key
More than ever, convenience is a driver for healthcare decision making. Customers seek prompt, quality service that is most easily integrated into their busy lives. Urgent care continues to lead on this main value proposition – the 2016 UCAOA Benchmarking Survey found 92 percent of urgent care patients waited 30 minutes or less to be seen by a practitioner last year, and 90 percent of visits took 60 minutes or less to complete.
While telemedicine, retail and other on-demand services are also finding niche roles in the continuum of care, urgent care remains a necessity due to our combination of broad scope of services, fast delivery of care and great value. Studies indicate this trifecta of convenience will remain extremely important to the customer of the future – the millennials.
A UCAOA survey from 2016 revealed millennials prioritize cost-savings and accessibility when making healthcare purchasing decisions. It is no surprise then that a study from the Health Industry Distribution Association (HIDA) showed 43 percent of millennials reported using an urgent care center in the last year.
Technology is no longer a supplement to our business – it is driving our business as connectivity and accessibility are the new normal. And patients now grasp the value of on-demand services and integration of technology to simplify their healthcare services.
Technology can impact the customer experience at every stage of the patient visit. Time-saving check-in processes conducted online are becoming commonplace, as are providing patient alerts when a practitioner is ready to see them. Likewise, many urgent care centers are integrating telemedicine capabilities into their operations to make better use of the medical providers when there are lulls in patient traffic.
Finding ways to improve our customer-centric service is a priority throughout the industry, and will be a continued educational focus at the Urgent Care Convention & Expo in National Harbor, MD, April 29 – May 3. Experts and peers will highlight how technology can help urgent care centers capitalize on new opportunities, and what to expect in the next decade of health innovation. We will discuss how best to cultivate healthy interactions with patients using current technologies, and why this engagement is vital to urgent care’s future growth and success.
Prioritize Patients Over Process
In an effort to stay innovative with the latest technology, urgent care centers often adjust their service model to accommodate the demands of payers, technology providers or other third parties. Allowing these roadblocks to get in the way of delivering the optimum, on-demand care that patients are actively seeking out would betray the foundation urgent care was built on: convenience and accessibility. If the tail is wagging the dog, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate.
Look Back to Move Forward
As the market for on-demand healthcare continues to grow, urgent care must lead the way in efficiency, convenience and a consumer-focused experience.
The upcoming UCAOA Convention & Expo in April will highlight market insights on the state of urgent care now and in the future. We will analyze industry developments over the past year, and brainstorm how they will form the foundation of health service business models as patient needs and expectations continue to evolve.
To ensure our path forward stays the most relevant, we may need to take a step back, identify and eliminate barriers, before pressing forward with a renewed focus on consumer needs and operational efficiency.