Posted by Naomi Nessim, June 20, 2018 (last updated on November 27, 2018)
It’s no secret that healthcare consumers in 2018 have high demands—far higher than at any other point in history. Rightfully so. As more and more Americans (about 40%) take on high deductible health plans, and millions more go without health insurance altogether, the cost of healthcare is taking its toll. As such, patients are turning to urgent care over both traditional doctor’s office and emergency room visits.
Recently, Solv hit a major milestone—1,500,000 urgent care visits were booked through Solv within six months. Our data also shows that 14% of consumers who booked those urgent care visits would have chosen the emergency room if they didn’t have access to convenient care. What this means is that a massive burden is being shifted off of the ER, saving the system $1 billion for every 1% of unnecessary visits shifted to urgent care.
The healthcare system at large isn’t the only beneficiary of this shift to urgent care. Both healthcare consumers and individual urgent care centers can reap the benefits. What is required, however, is that urgent care operators pay special attention to consumer demands and do what they can to rise up and meet them. While consumers are turning to urgent care more than ever before, they also have 7,357 urgent care centers to choose from, nationwide, according to the Urgent Care Association.
In our recent survey, along with the Urgent Care Association, Solv surveyed1,386 Americans about their needs and expectations when engaging with the U.S. healthcare system. Below, learn what matters most to the urgent care healthcare consumer so your urgent care center can leverage these demands, create patient loyalty, and improve your bottom line.
Healthcare consumers want convenience, above all else
Convenience is the name of the game for healthcare consumers in 2018. As evident by the 1.5 million urgent care visits booked through Solv in the last six months alone, patients are looking for better care, when and how they want it. But what exactly does convenience translate to, aside from a facility that patients can walk in to?
The use of technology in an urgent care setting
Our survey found that 90% of patients want to use their mobile device to talk to a doctor before visiting a clinic. 57% would rather use video than text. Across the board, telemedicine is becoming an important feature for healthcare consumers, allowing them to supplement in-person care with care from the comfort of their own home (or car, or office, or…anywhere they can use their smartphone). Urgent care centers can increase the convenience of their already-convenient care by adding telemedicine to their roster of available services.
Healthcare consumers also reported wanting to book same-day urgent care appointments using their mobile device—this desire increases with the number of times a patient visits urgent care. 42% of patients who visit once a year prefer mobile booking to using a computer or calling. But 71% patients who go to urgent care five to eight times per year want to be able to book using their smartphone.
This is largely due to patient’s reservations about walking in for care. Though urgent care is a primarily walk-in culture, 66% of healthcare consumers would rather have an appointment—and be able to book that appointment with east on their mobile device. It’s a good idea to do so, too, because the main reason people switch urgent care or medical clinics is if they find one that accepts mobile booking.
And it’s not just millennials, either. Even older generations prefer to use technology as a way of making convenient care, well, more convenient. This highlights the need for urgent care centers to take a good look at the systems in place and figure out where a more technologically advanced solution could fit in.
Patients are demanding price transparency
Did you know that 70% of urgent care patients look for prices before their visit? It’s true. But only 23% of people receive the prices they ask for. In a healthcare economy where high deductibles are more common than ever before, and more and more patients are going without insurance altogether, consumers are increasingly concerned about healthcare costs.
Simply publishing costs on your urgent care centers website can go a long way in creating trust and loyalty with your patients. To make things even easier for them, consider using mobile solutions to deliver their bill. Tools like the new Solv feature, Solv Pay, allow consumers more visibility into their insurance coverage, and allows them to pay their part from their phones (using a number of different payment options).
Second just to mobile booking, 38% of consumers would switch clinics if they found one that communicated the price beforehand. It’s that important.
Patients want peace of time
Last but not at all least, healthcare consumers want to know that their time is valued. This ties into their expressed desire for mobile booking and same-day appointments—the reason those things are so important to patients is that having a confirmed time to receive care gives them peace of time.
In traditional healthcare settings, wait time is a huge source of frustration for patients. In a primary doctor’s office, not only do patients wait an average of 24 days for an appointment, the appointment time often comes and goes with the patient still in the waiting room. In the emergency room, this issue is much, much worse.
When it comes to urgent care, however, patients expect more—in less time. 70% of patients surveyed would rather have a set time than wait in line. Some patients would even pay to skip the wait; $27 to avoid a 60-minute wait, $15 to avoid a 45-minute wait, $8 to avoid a 30-minute wait, and $5 to avoid even just a 15-minute wait. Patients are telling urgent care centers what they want and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.
Urgent care centers who are going to take appointment need to set realistic expectations—patients become less patient when they expect to be seen at a certain time. In fact, for appointments, patients will wait a max of 20 minutes, compared to 38 minutes without an appointment.
Put simply, urgent care centers can’t afford to ignore the things that matter most to healthcare consumers. As convenient care continues to experience an uptick in patients who previously would have gone to primary care or the ER, it’s important for urgent care operators to establish solutions that are good for the patient. Good for the patient means good for the business and good for the healthcare system overall.