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.
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