In the highly competitive Urgent Care market, Centers are not only competing with other Urgent Care Centers, but also with Emergency Rooms, retail in-store clinics and with online medical sites like MDLive.com A well thought out strategy and marketing approach can help your urgent care stand out in this crowd.
Here are few things to consider in 2016:
1. UNDERSTAND WHO YOUR PROSPECTIVE PATIENTS ARE AND WHAT THEY WANT.
A business succeeds when it meets a consumer’s need better than other businesses. Marketing for urgent care begins with identifying a specific group of patients and understanding their un-met medical needs. Urgent care patients are generally busy adults who need a place to go when a family medical need arises that requires immediate, but not emergency, medical attention. Some needs met by urgent care include:
- Availability during evenings and weekends (when primary care physician offices are closed).
- Convenience of non-scheduled, walk-in service (to accommodate on-the-go lifestyles).
- Accessibility to home, school, or work (resulting in a short drive time to the center).
- Affordability (lower out-of-pocket cost than emergency rooms).
Patient’s may also benefit from a shorter wait time compared to an emergency room visit. The best way to understand the needs of prospective patients is to do market research with your target audience.
2. DEVELOP A STRATEGY TO EXCEED PATIENT NEEDS.
Health care needs vary by individual, identifying the consumers that are best suited for what your clinic does best is critical. Some consumers already have a comfort with their local hospital because they are already familiar with it. For others, a shortage of Medicaid providers provides no other options but to go to the emergency room.
Consumers with high, out-of-pocket deductibles or co-pays tend to be more cost conscientious when selecting facilities and providers. The center marketing strategy targets the patients most likely to utilize urgent care and builds the service offering around the needs of those patients by:
- Identifying which consumer segments the urgent care is going to target
- Defining the value urgent care provides to those segments
- Differentiating the urgent care from competitors (on factors important to each segment
- Creating a program to communicate the benefits and unique advantages of the center to each segment.
3. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR STAFF.
Providers and staff should be sensitive and aware of what consumers are looking for in an urgent care center and then consistently deliver on those expectations. If the target market consists of busy professionals who place an emphasis on time, the facility needs to be able to communicate and set realistic expectations for wait times. Facilities need to make efforts to streamline their processes for operational efficiency and minimize discomfort for those waiting with refreshments, periodicals or entertainment,when there are unavoidable waits.
If the target market values the education and training of providers, the facility should project a confident, professional standard in its appearance, clearly communicate diagnoses and treatment options, and take time to answer patient questions. Every aspect of the operation should be focused on meeting patient needs better than other healthcare options in the community.
4. KNOW YOUR COMPETITION AND OUTLINE YOUR CORE CAPABILITIES.
An urgent care center’s competition extends beyond other walk-in facilities and encompasses all of a patient’s options for basic health care. Potential competitors include primary care, after-hours pediatrics, hospital and freestanding emergency rooms, retail host model clinics, pure-play occupational health clinics, telemedicine, self-care with over-the-counter products, internet medical websites, and even doing nothing at all.
Creating “competitive advantage” entails meeting consumer needs better than competitors. A successful urgent care center will be differentiated from other health care options on factors that are important to consumers like:
What are your differentiators?
5. BUILD YOUR BRAND.
A “brand” is the unique set of benefits a business delivers to a customer while “brand elements”—functional and emotional—are what differentiate a business in the minds of consumers. Ultimately, branding answers the question “why would someone use my center versus other options?” For urgent care, “functional elements” are what a center does—such as treating cuts and diagnosing and splinting fractures all while focusing on the quality, price, and consistency. All too often, urgent care centers focus their branding on the functional elements.
When educating consumers who are unfamiliar with urgent care—competing with the emergency room—functional elements hopeful, yet uncontrollable elements like short wait times and low co-pays. When marketing to a more “enlightened” consumer and competing with other urgent care centers, services like convenient, walk-in service and on-site x-ray availability alone are not brand differentiators—the focus must shift to the emotional elements. “Emotional elements” speak to the consumer’s perceptions and will differentiate an urgent care based on the patient’s experience.
When consumers do not have sufficient medical training to differentiate the quality of physician services, they will make judgments on quality based on what they see and feel. An ill kept facility, long wait times, and an abrupt medical assistant, will result in an evaluation that the doctor is of “poor quality,” regardless of the true quality of clinical services provided. But if the staff is friendly and empathetic, the waiting room comfortable and well provisioned, and wait times regularly communicated, the patient will be more likely to return and recommend the facility to others.