The urgent care experience is unique in the healthcare ecosystem. It’s one of the few expenses that are generally wholly unplanned, and that creates an immediate collision course between care and compensation.
You want happy patients. Statistically, happy patients are paying patients. Data show that if patients are satisfied with their care at an urgent care center, 74 percent of them will pay their bills. If they aren’t, only 33 percent will. So your urgent care center has a vested interest in keeping patients happy. But how do you do that?
Don’t Underestimate Aesthetics
Patients today have certain expectations when it comes to urgent care collections. Think of it as a bit like gardening. Your end goal in a garden is to grow bountiful produce while your end goal in any business is revenue.
How do you get the best harvest? You create a pleasant process of cultivating, nurturing, fertilizing and making the garden aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. Your urgent care clinic is the same. You’ll never get the harvest you are seeking without creating an entire patient-centered experience.
According to a PatientBond market research study, adults ages 25-34 are statistically more likely than any other age group to visit an urgent care center once every one to three months. PatientBond also found that a psychographic segment known as Willful Endurers represent 67 percent of all patients who visit an urgent care center at least once every one to three months.
These groups are also statistically more likely than most groups to look at social media or consumer reviews before selecting an urgent care provider. The atmosphere tends to be a big part of those reviews and if the consensus isn’t positive, that means you could be losing out on many frequent customers that don’t even make it into the door.
So offer a wonderful customer experience, from a clean, visually-appealing entrance to a friendly receptionist warmly greeting patients. And don’t underestimate aesthetics: A few leafy plants in the lobby, a couple of brightly colored chairs and some warm rugs can create a positive vibe from the second the patient walks in the door. Even if your care is top-notch, it's hard to get past a waiting area that looks like a ransacked dollar store.
Offer Compassionate Care
All the waiting room cheer in the world won’t help if your patient’s medical needs are not tended to with compassion and accuracy. Train staff to exhibit warmth, empathy and speed. Don’t keep someone in a waiting room for 40 minutes without communicating with them. Most people are understanding about delays if they know the reason for them, and if one happens, have staff member pop their head in and explain a delay.
But don’t over-treat the patient either. Urgent care patients are usually coming in for a specific reason: a sore throat, a fever or a sports physical. Don’t offer a patient visiting for an upset stomach a bunch of other unrelated treatments.
Automate, Automate, Automate
Use kiosks for checking in and have a receptionist as a backup if someone is too ill to do it themselves. In a busy urgent care center, the ability to check in on a lobby kiosk or a phone app streamlines the process for everyone. And if you let patients know how long of a wait they’ll be facing, that’s a potent tool.
Make everything from the check-in process to the payment process as seamless as possible for the busy, tech-savvy patient who is used to swiping, clicking and downloading their way through life.
This isn’t just what a growing segment of consumers want — it also represents a significant savings source. Consider that one network of urgent care centers saved $55,000 annually by switching to automated payment reminders instead of relying on manual telephone follow-up.
Use a patient engagement platform like PatientBond to create an end-to-end collections experience that doesn’t seem like a collections experience. PatientBond’s customizable digital workflows and proprietary psychographic segmentation model allow clinics and urgent care centers to engage with patients on their own terms and turf, based on their own unique motivations and communication preferences, whether that’s emails, text messages or Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
Don’t Forget Privacy
Don’t shout “Mrs. Smith, would you like to schedule a follow-up for your hernia today?” More common privacy violations we’ve seen have to do with sign-in sheets left on counters, computer screens open with patient data clearly visible and charts left in plain view. In fact, a PatientBond market research study found that 45 percent of patients are concerned about security and privacy when communicating with a healthcare provider. A patient wants to know unequivocally that their privacy is being safeguarded and respected.
The privacy extends to billing, collections and follow-up care as well. That’s another reason platforms, like PatientBond, are so valuable — the method of communication can be tailored to fit the patient’s privacy preferences.
Follow these steps, and like the gardener who enjoys a bountiful harvest year in and year out, your urgent care center will become a garden of profitability, solvency and happy, healthy patients.