Why Successful Urgent Care Startups Need to Think Like Entrepreneurs

Why Successful Urgent Care Startups Need to Think Like Entrepreneurs

When starting an urgent care center, it can be tempting for providers to focus solely on the clinical side of the practice because they’re hanging their hats on the old-school belief that patients will simply find them once their practice opens its doors. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, leaning on that way of thinking sets urgent care providers up for guaranteed failure. Why? To succeed with an urgent care startup, you can’t just think like a doctor; you also have to think like an entrepreneur.

Why Urgent Care Startups Must Think Like Entrepreneurs

The urgent care industry views patients as consumers who choose to use a specific center versus other available options just as they would when they decide where to shop. The industry’s focus on highly visible locations, extended operating hours and excellent customer service has earned it the descriptor of “retail medicine,” which means that great clinical outcomes are not the only factors that make patients choose one urgent care center over another. Patients need to be “courted” with targeted marketing and advertising and superior customer service experiences, so great clinical outcomes are only a small part of the equation.

To be successful in a volume-driven business like urgent care, you must be comfortable wearing two hats: that of a skilled health care provider and a strategic entrepreneur. If you focus solely on the medicine and do nothing to drive patients to your urgent care center the same way retailers drive consumers to their stores, your center won’t be open for long.

How to Think Like an Entrepreneur

You may not have gone to business school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking like an entrepreneur. Your urgent care center is a business, and your patients are your customers. You need to think about how you can compete for patients while running your business in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. These are just a few ways you can start thinking like an entrepreneur while running an urgent care practice:

Increase your visibility in the community
As an urgent care entrepreneur, you must always keep your center’s name – or brand – visible to your community by using effective, low-cost marketing tactics. Grassroots marketing and community relations are typically effective ways to keep your center’s name top-of-mind. Put up a tent in your center’s parking lot and do drive-by flu shots during flu season. Participate in community events to get your staff out into the public. Also, contact your local media to see if they want to interview one of your clinicians whenever there are hot medical topics in the news.

Add occupational medicine services
Occupational medicine, which includes work-related injuries, pre-employment screenings, fitness-for-duty exams and compliance physicals, is a natural complement to urgent care services. Adding occupational medicine will increase your patient volume and provide free marketing to the employees of the companies you contract with. After all, when a sick employee can’t get in with his or her primary care doctor, where will HR most likely recommend they go for immediate care? The urgent care center that handles their occupational medicine.

Learn how to lead and manage a staff
There’s no doubt you went through rigorous medical training in medical school, but that didn’t prepare you to run a business and manage a staff full of diverse personalities and skill sets. Accept what you don’t know and set out to learn. Attend association conferences and local management seminars, read books on entrepreneurship and marketing, and connect with professionals who already run thriving urgent care centers to learn from their experiences.

Learn how to identify and fix broken business processes
Getting patients through your door is only half the battle; you need to make sure they’re also recommending you to friends and family or returning when they need additional medical care. If patients experience “service failure” – excessively long waits, inaccurate diagnoses, billing issues, wrong prescriptions, bad service – not only will they not come back, but they’ll tell others not to use your center either.

You need to be vigilant in identifying and fixing any broken business processes that cause service failure. Neglecting to do so can ultimately lead to a broken business.

Create awesome service experiences
Once you start drawing patients into your urgent care center, you must create consumer-friendly experiences that will make your patients “super fans” of your urgent care center. Be extremely conscious of their time, including timely follow-ups if there are delays. Provide a variety of amenities, such as free WiFi, refreshments, TVs in the waiting area and a play area for the kids. And conduct proactive service recovery if anything doesn’t quite go right during a visit.

Starting an urgent care center is a significant financial investment, so make sure your new center doesn’t sit empty after it opens. With the right business strategies, your urgent care business will thrive.

Discuss Your Urgent Care Needs

Urgent Care Consultants specializes in starting urgent care centers from the ground up. Let us connect you with one of our experts today.

Top 3 Takeaways from the 2017 Society of Pediatric Urgent Care Conference

Top 3 Takeaways from the 2017 Society of Pediatric Urgent Care Conference

Heather Real

Heather Real, Consultant with Urgent Care Consultants

Heather Real, one of the consultants on the Urgent Care Consultants team, attended the Third Annual Society for Pediatric Urgent Care Conference held October 5-8 at Seattle Children’s Hospital. During a packed three days at the conference, Heather gleaned a profusion of expert information regarding the pediatric urgent care industry. She was excited to share her findings with UCC’s clients, so she put together her top three takeaways from her three days in Seattle.

Pediatric Urgent Care Takes Consumer-based Approach

“One of the things that was discussed more than I expected was the consumer approach to medicine, especially when it comes to the urgent care setting,” said Real.

The consumer-based approach is what the proprietor model of urgent care is built on, and according to Real, pediatric urgent care is no different. With mom being a savvy consumer, she is applying her value-based approach to how she makes medical decisions for herself and her family.

During the Pediatric Urgent Care Conference, the conversation focused on how consumers expect health care services to be just as responsive and accessible as other industries, such as banking and online shopping. Consumers expect affordability and convenience. And with the increased prevalence of high deductible insurance plans, patients are warier of costs. In the past, patients weren’t as judicious when an office visit was required because insurance covered the bulk of the cost. Now that responsibility falls primarily on patients’ shoulders.

“Patients are becoming cost-conscious consumers who seek low-acuity care in the same way one might seek a mechanic,” said Real. “If the need is episodic and urgent, the patient needs to feel they are getting quality care at a reasonable rate.”

A Move Towards Pain-Free Urgent Care

One particularly hot topic at the conference was pain management in the pediatric urgent care setting.

“A lot of research has been done lately around a child’s experience with pain in a medical setting and how that affects how they approach medicine later in life, particularly as it relates to potentially painful procedures,” said Real.

Rather than previously used methods, such as restraining children, conference attendees learned how techniques used by child life specialists in the hospital setting can be applied in the urgent care setting to ease patient anxieties. Those techniques involved distraction and updated language and medical devices that decrease children’s distress when undergoing procedures, such as laceration repairs, IV placement, blood draws, foreign body removals, intramuscular injections and more.

For example, active distraction techniques include tablet games, “I SPY” books, bubbles and meditation, while passive distraction techniques include movies, singing, reading a book or spinning toys.

One of the medical devices Real learned about was the J-Tip, a needle-free device that can be used to inject lidocaine. “They call it a space ship because it makes a ‘wooshing’ noise as the medication is deployed and may startle a young patient if they are not properly prepared,” said Real. “The device drives the medicine below the surface of the skin and blocks the nerves to numb the skin. No pain and no needles. You can even have the child touch the tip to show them there’s no needle, and then ‘1-2-3 blast off!’ Just a blast of air and a little fluid and it doesn’t hurt.”

According to Real, many states are moving toward having some regulations with sedation, requiring urgent cares to be licensed, certified or fall under the regulations of an outpatient surgical center. For urgent care centers located in states with these kinds of regulations, sedation may not be a reasonable option, so these kinds of techniques will become a necessity.

For everyone else, these techniques are great to know to if you want to offer your patients the best experience possible.

Collaboration Between Urgent Care and Pediatricians

There is a common misconception that urgent care centers that cater to kids are out to steal patients from pediatric practices, when the reality is that urgent care is well-positioned to augment the medical services in a community. Conference attendees discussed how to approach local pediatricians to introduce the concept of pediatric urgent care as an alternative to the emergency department, not an alternative to the pediatrician.

“This is especially important to communicate to local pediatricians if you have overlapping hours,” said Real. “The pediatrician could think the urgent care will not treat the patient appropriately or even think the urgent care will try to take over the primary care of that patient, but the urgent care center is better suited to see the child who has the episodic and urgent medical need and needs to see a provider right away. Pediatric urgent cares can take unnecessary visits off pediatrician’s schedules so they can handle wellness visits and manage their chronically ill patients within their normal office hours.”

Real says the key is for urgent care providers to emphasize that they will always refer the kids back to their pediatricians for follow-up care.

“Kids can decline fast, so they shouldn’t have to wait to get in to see their pediatrician or be diverted to the ED for non-emergent needs,” said Real.

Next year’s SPUC 2018 Annual Conference will be October 4-7, 2018, at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida. We look forward to seeing what new trends and research in pediatric urgent care will be coming next!

Discuss Your Urgent Care Needs

Urgent Care Consultants specializes in starting urgent care centers from the ground up. Let us connect you with one of our experts today.

If Your Community Needs Health Care, Do You Really Need to Advertise Your Urgent Care Startup?

If Your Community Needs Health Care, Do You Really Need to Advertise Your Urgent Care Startup?

Health care is an ongoing need for every community, so is it really necessary to invest in advertising for your startup urgent care center? Won’t people start filtering through your doors once they see you’re open for business?

The reality is the adage “if you build it, they will come” simply does not work. Word-of-mouth promotion takes far too long to have a positive impact on new urgent care centers, so startups need to help it along by investing in advertising to get the initial word out. After all, urgent care profitability depends on patient volume, so investing in advertising will help drive the initial volume needed for a new urgent care practice to succeed.

And advertising your urgent care center is an investment, not an expense to be controlled. When done strategically, your return is increased patient volume. The challenge is that the return on your advertising investment – or ROI – can be difficult to quantify because urgent care is not a planned purchase or daily consumable. You won’t see direct responses to your urgent care ads like Macy’s does for its coupons in the Sunday newspaper because the need for your services probably aren’t there the moment a consumer sees your ad.

That’s why your advertising strategy should focus on educating consumers and building top-of-mind awareness of your services. Unlike that Macy’s coupon that might convince a consumer to go out and buy that pair of shoes this weekend, your ads will linger in consumers’ minds, springing to the surface when an urgent medical need arises.

Just make sure you’re targeting the right consumers. Taking a shotgun approach to advertising through radio and TV ads might seem like the best bang for your buck, but you’ll end up reaching a lot of people who will never use your urgent care center because of its location, insurance limitations, lack of physician referrals and other factors. Make sure you target your ads to people who are the most likely to use your urgent care center, such as:

  • Families with children
  • Above-average household incomes
  • People with employer-provided health insurance
  • Owner-occupied residences

What kind of ads let you achieve this level of targeting? Look into direct mailers, online ads, Google AdWords, social media, print ads in niche publications, and even grassroots tactics, such as working with Chambers of Commerce, community organizations, hotels/motels, college campuses and local schools.

Remember, tomorrow’s visits are driven by today’s foot traffic, so drawing in these target segments early on starts that word-of-mouth cycle that will keep traffic coming through your doors. Make sure you plan a grand opening for your new urgent care center to introduce the community to your staff and services, and keep those touch-points going with seasonal campaigns, such as sports physicals and flu clinics. The number one predictor of patient volume during off-peak seasons is foot traffic during peak seasons, so time your ads wisely. Planning your advertising expenditures during your high utilization periods will maximize your advertising budget.

Your community may be in need of your health care services, but that need doesn’t guarantee they’ll choose your urgent care center over a competitor. Investing in a strategic advertising program before your urgent care center even opens will help ensure you see the patient volume you need to succeed.