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Be sure and watch for insights from UCAOA CEO Laurel Stoimenoff, PT, CHC. Each month, Laurel shares insights on our industry, activities affecting urgent care, and information on UCAOA advocacy efforts and other events.


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Beyond Access: Redefining Your Value Proposition

Posted By Laurel Stoimenoff, PT, CHC, Monday, March 13, 2017

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.

Embrace Technology

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. 

Tags:  accessibility  connectivity  on-demand services  patient care  telemedicine 

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Posted By Laurel Stoimenoff, PT, CHC, Thursday, February 9, 2017

UCAOA’ s most recent Benchmarking Report data indicated the median number of patient visits per day in an urgent care center was thirty-two, down slightly from the prior year; however, based on the current database of urgent care centers in the United States, this would translate to urgent care centers caring for nearly 85 million visits per year.  According to a 2012 data reported by the CDC’s National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS),[1] outpatient physician office visits were reported as follows:

  • Total visits: 928.6M
  • Visits per 100 persons: 300.8
  • Percentage of visits made to primary care physicians: 54.6% 

Therefore, assuming ambulatory care visits remained consistent with activity reported in 2012 and primary care visits represent 54.6% of all visits (or 507 million) urgent care would represent over 16% of all primary care visits and over 9% of all outpatient physician visits.  Statistically, it would seem that urgent care has earned its seat at the table as we discuss reform. 

Recent studies conducted in Massachusetts and Colorado concluded that 40 percent of emergency department visits were for non-emergent conditions that could be more appropriately and cost-effectively cared for in less acute settings, including urgent care centers.  The study published by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission illustrated that emergency department visits per 1000 residents were reduced by 30 percent[2] in those markets where urgent care centers or retail clinics had a presence.

It would seem that all this would be cause for great optimism yet our phones ring with members pleading for help. The contracting and credentialing process has become so protracted that it threatens the viability of many start-ups, particularly if they did not have the foresight to begin the process early in their development plans.  Networks are being narrowed in many areas principally by denying access to new entrants. Contract language specific to urgent care centers now often dictates staffing models, hours of operation and places limitations on wellness and follow-up care despite the fact that many of our patients are geographically displaced from their primary care provider, cannot access their PCP or simply do not have one.  These new rules of participation extend far beyond those of state medical boards charged with public protection.  Established urgent care organizations may being exhaling a sigh of relief that this isn’t their problem; but, what happens when that contract comes up for renewal? 

We all have a responsibility to demonstrate our worth.  While UCAOA will continue to have dialogue at a national level, most payer negotiations are at the state or regional level, which is why the industry needs the support of our members and we need to provide tools to support you.  So what can we you do whether on the outside looking in or sitting on an existing contract?

  • Be relentless in your attempts to secure an audience with payers in your community. Demonstrate how you are innovating and how your organization’s strategies align with those of the payer.
  • Integrate with the greater healthcare community.  If the patient has a PCP, work to establish reasonable communication methods that ultimately reduce costs, eliminate redundant testing and improve health.  Operating in silos is dead.
  • Demonstrate how your center is prepared to support ED diversion strategies.
  • Provide data.  The payer community has access to an immense amount of data but the urgent care center has the unique opportunity to provide relevant information that they either don’t have access to, or haven’t thought to collect.  How many of their members report to you that they do not have a PCP? If they have a PCP, was he or she accessible when care was needed? How many of their members sought care after 5:00 PM during the week or on weekends and what savings from an E.D. visit was therefore realized? How many of their members received radiography, lab or other services often delivered outside of the office visit as part of the payers global fee?
  • Use the data to educate payer representatives on the value your center(s) bring to the equation and seek opportunities for improvement.
  • Share your successes and best practices as well as barriers with UCAOA’s Payer Relations Committee.  It has strategic agenda to advance on behalf of our members.

Our voice deserves to be heard. The payer community is tasked with implementing tremendous change. Let us all ensure that the message we deliver offers solutions.

Laurel Stoimenoff, PT, CHC, is chief executive officer of the Urgent Care Association of America

Read more of Laurel's insights in her CEO column in the February issue of the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine.

[1] Source:

[2] Massachusetts Health Policy Commission 2015 Cost Trends Report, Emergency Department Utilization

Tags:  contracting  credentialing  payers 

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