10 characteristics differentiating modern urgent care sites

Driven by the customization and convenience offered in other industries, individuals are increasingly expecting the same experience from their healthcare providers.

Health systems that deliver on these service expectations while providing high-quality care are rewarded with the patients’ trust and loyalty. Building a modern urgent care platform is a great way for health systems to develop capabilities to deliver the elevated experience and create the needed service capabilities. Distinctly different from legacy urgent care models, modern urgent care is designed first around the patient’s needs, combining convenience, access, and predictability with clinical needs. This patient-centric approach allows modern urgent care platforms to achieve both high levels of patient satisfaction and positive standalone economic results.

Ten characteristics differentiate modern urgent care from legacy urgent care models. Success in one characteristic typically means success in others because a modern platform integrates all functions as optimizing the patient-centric experience.

1. Recommended.
The number one indicator of meeting the patients’ demands is how willing patients are to recommend your service. A modern urgent care platform will develop and promote a distinct brand and patient experience. This experience will be reflected in Net Promotor Scores higher than well respected service companies (e.g., Apple, Starbucks, etc.).

2. Predictable.
The modern urgent care platform deploys a highly consistent operating model across all sites. As a result, a modern platform delivers high levels of predictability for the prospective and returning patient. All modern urgent care centers have consistent hours (typically 8am to 8pm every day), consistent door-to-door times (typically less than 30 minutes), consistent pricing (typically a global, one-price bill with only selected add-ons) and a consistent experience with standardized work flow.

3. Convenient.
The modern urgent care platform offers “retail-level” convenience for healthcare services. This means the center is open until the listed closure time without closing early after accepting “enough” patients, open outside typical physician office hours, including holidays and has all the typical services on site including X-ray, lab services, occupational health and medicine, and basic prescription medications.

4. Service.
The modern urgent care platform meets patients’ non-clinical service expectations. Team members are there to serve the patient not the other way around. They greet patients as they arrive and escort them throughout their visit. Thoughtful amenities such as a warm cup of coffee and free internet access are basic expectations. If there is a very short wait, patients experience a modern lobby rather than a medical office waiting room. There is no registration from behind a glass window, but rather a friendly face to walk beside patients throughout their visits. Follow-up phone calls (usually 48-72 hours after a visit) and even handwritten thank you cards to new patients let patients know that their business is appreciated.

5. Clinical Quality.
The modern urgent care platform delivers consistent clinical quality with every visit. Standardized protocols built around best practices and a clear scope of services allow care to be highly structured and eliminate poor clinical decision-making (e.g., over-prescribing antibiotics, under-diagnosing, etc.). As a result, the modern urgent care platform brings an expertise model to a segment of primary care.

6. Efficient, Accountable Staffing.
The modern urgent care platform utilizes a cross-trained team whose work is based on best-practice protocols and are empowered to work at the top of their licensure or certification. Team members are also accountable for the non-clinical patient experience, starting with acknowledging patients with eye contact, a smile, and a handshake when they arrive at the clinic.

7. Cost Effective.
The modern urgent care platform uses 100% advance practice providers. Supporting the provider is a choreographed team of medical assistants and radiology technicians cross trained in registration. With structured protocols, a defined scope of service and cross-training, labor costs and supply can be significantly reduced while simultaneously creating fewer handoffs and stronger patient-clinician relationship.

8. Accessible Format.
The modern urgent care center keeps its patients front-of-mind when selecting sites. Often located in highly visible, highly trafficked retail areas, the modern urgent care is located where patients are during their day-to-day lives. A site needs only 3,200 square feet, adjacent parking, and windows into an inviting lobby to catch the attention of potential patients.

9. Relationship Growth.
The modern urgent care platform recognizes that its role in the health system is to provide great service and connect the patients with the parent health system. Typically, forty percent of patients do not have a primary care relationship worth self-reporting. A modern urgent care platform will seek to link these patients and other patients needing specialty care (such as orthopedics, dermatology, ENT and OB) to referrals with the health system’s other providers.

10. Stand-Alone Profitability.
A modern urgent care facility will typically see 15,000+ visits per year, with cash break-even at 9,000 annual visits. With 30% EBITDA, a 10-year NPV without terminal value is $500,000 -$750,000.

While all urgent care platforms, modern and legacy, claim to focus on the patient, only the platforms that have been designed around the patient can deliver on what patients want. Delivering what patients want requires health systems to view urgent care as a separate channel needing a custom, supporting platform. The above ten characteristics are a measure for how well your platform is performing.

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