By Monte Sandler, Chief Operating Officer at Experity
The pandemic presented a massive opportunity for U.S. urgent care providers to take on a more prominent role in care delivery and care access for the masses, as on-demand care became a necessity amid the public health emergency and the care constraints that came with it. Clinics became hubs for convenient, accessible care for what much of the public felt was unknown at the time. Visit volumes reached historic highs, and urgent cares were ready to deliver exactly what they were built for – convenient, high-quality, high-velocity and accessible care for millions of people.
As the healthcare industry continues to manage the effects of the pandemic, and the changes driven by it, we continue to see new and expanded opportunities emerge for urgent care clinics to evolve with the landscape and gain a competitive edge. With rising patient expectations and high visit volumes becoming the new normal, urgent cares are under new pressure to meet today’s demands that resulted from the industry’s agile services and impressive responsiveness during the pandemic.
Now, as urgent cares continue serving as the hub for convenient, accessible healthcare for the masses, clinic owners have the opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned during the pandemic and identify new ways to differentiate their businesses in the booming on-demand market, where more and more major players and disruptors are now turning an eye toward convenience. As the pandemic progresses toward becoming an endemic, urgent care owners must utilize data-driven business insights in new, strategic ways to continue building upon the improvements made thus far and ensure business sustainability by reaching long-term goals.
Building upon the adaption and shifts that urgent cares implemented during the pandemic, and with an eye toward greater efficiency, there are numerous ways that urgent cares can further apply key industry learnings to differentiate their level of operations, patient experiences and care delivery from others in the market.
Meeting Increased Patient Expectations
It’s well-established that the most noteworthy value of on-demand care lies in its accessibility. The challenge on-demand care providers face is not delivering care in a timely, convenient manner, but standing out among others who are doing the same, and simultaneously delivering care at a higher level than ever to meet patient expectations.
Patients have demonstrated a willingness to receive more than just traditional urgent care services at clinics, and many clinics are broadening their capabilities in response, progressively turning into “one-stop-shops” for on-demand care services that include primary care, occupational health, and more. Embracing this evolution of urgent care, just as they did during the pandemic, will allow clinics to deliver the greater variety of care options patients have come to expect – while maintaining the quality and convenience for which they are known.
Turning urgent care clinics into true one-stop-shops is a tall order, and perhaps not realistic, nor always beneficial to patients; specialists are vital components of the healthcare continuum and can’t all operate out of every clinic. Thankfully, other steps can be taken to mitigate the frustrations that come with follow-up visits after an appointment at an urgent care. Clinics can bridge the gaps between appointments by providing patients with quality referrals, as well as materials and information they can take with them as they continue their healthcare journeys outside the clinic’s doors. These providers can optimize their own success and differentiate themselves by demonstrating that they are committed to doing everything in their power to meet their patients’ needs for additional care, even after an appointment ends.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
Post-pandemic, patients are making it clear that they look for factors such as increased automation, telemedicine use, up-to-date processes, and flexibility in a provider. With the help of new technologies, so many of which arrived on the market in response to Covid-19, the opportunities for urgent cares to enhance the patient experience are there for the taking. Clinics who offer these options can not only meet basic expectations but improve the patient experience overall. For example, by pulling the curtain back and allowing patients to view appointments, message providers, and explore payment options on a virtual care platform, urgent cares can help patients play a more active a role in their own care journeys and have more control over certain variables.
Technological advancements that were developed during the pandemic have helped urgent cares offer a digital-first experience, significantly improving the way they receive care and further proving their prowess in convenience and access. Clinics who continue to look ahead at new tech and apply it to their operations at the earliest opportunity will be able to evolve more successfully, keep up with the industry, reap the benefits ahead of competitors, and earn the positive feedback of patients who enjoy an enhanced experience, which leads to trust and return visits.
When patients prefer an in-person care experience, despite urgent cares’ accessibility and convenience, wait times and cumbersome processes can drag out the length of a visit unnecessarily. The customer experience can be improved with the help of other modifications that mitigate these challenges. Providing patients with options such as extended hours and online registration will improve access and streamline operations, enhancing the patient experience. Additionally, investing in a modernized facility creates an optimal first impression, which is then reinforced by these tools and added benefits.
The opportunity for urgent cares to solidify themselves as crucial components of the healthcare continuum has hardly passed, and with the availability of data to help measure performance and progress, they can continue to evolve based on insights in tandem with their existing delivery goal of efficiency. The adaptable nature of on-demand care lends itself to constant evolution alongside the industry, as well as patients and their needs. Quality, convenience, and accessibility are hallmarks of on-demand care – and this isn’t changing – but after facing the challenges of the past few years, clinics that learn from experience will be the ones who successfully achieve those pillars. Though the factors that patients value in their urgent care experience vary, reflecting upon the industry’s shared experiences during the pandemic and applying lessons learned will give clinics the greatest chance of broad, long-term success.
Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.