Urgent care facilities have seen a rapid rise in demand over the past few years. According to the Urgent Care Association, patient volumes across the United States have grown by 60 percent since 2019.
A record 11,150 urgent care facilities are currently operating across the country as of March 2023. To keep up with surging demand, the number of facilities operating across the country is expected to grow by seven percent each year.
This growth in patient demand and expectations can present challenges for urgent care operations, increasing the need for a data-driven urgent care strategy. Too often, though, performance data is siloed to leadership visibility and limited to monthly reports that make it difficult to generate actionable insights in near to real-time.
To build a successful strategy, urgent care companies need easy access to daily metrics reflecting their patient volumes, day-to-day operations, and online brand reputation, which ultimately affect financial performance.
Patient Volume Metrics
Patient volume metrics offer a snapshot of overall clinic performance and profitability, both in terms of operating volume and overall patient satisfaction. The most fundamental patient volume metrics include the following:
- Daily patient visits, separated by visit type: Beyond the total volume of patients served on a given day, patient visit data can be analyzed to identify peak periods of demand, the split between new vs. returning patients, visit type, seasonality trends, and other relevant data points about patient demographics.
- Patient frequency and lifetime value (LTV): The average number of annual visits per patient can improve patient volume prediction and achieve operational efficiencies through predictive resourcing. Patient LTV can inform ROI attribution for cost of acquisition (CAC) in advertising, marketing, and other patient referral channels.
- Walk-in patients: Walk-in availability impacts an urgent care ability to track certain types of patients who are less likely to book online, like older generations.
- Book ahead patients: Balancing walk-in availability with facility wait times is often a tightrope act when your staff is manually trying to figure out who is next. On the other hand, when staff are able to let software automize manual workflows, they save time and make patient flow throughput more manageable, especially during peak seasons.
- Website traffic: The total volume of unique visitors may reflect your advertising and brand visibility, but website referral sources also matter.
- Online patient conversion: A high conversion rate suggests your messaging is clear, and your booking process is low friction—meaning patients are able to book easily.
Patient volume metrics can offer a path to optimizing patient care, new patient acquisitions, and patient retention—all of which impact your average patient lifetime value. We recommend the following tactics to improve patient volume:
- Online reputation and brand presence: Reputation management strategies, including soliciting reviews from satisfied patients and responding publicly to negative reviews, can improve your online reputation and drive a higher patient volume.
- Online bookings: Self-scheduling tools can reduce administrative workloads while capturing appointments from patients looking for easy medical access.
- Increased availability & latent demand for online bookings: Increased velocity of book-ahead appointments and estimated wait times can help you fill out your daily appointment schedule. Transparency is the key to winning and delighting new and returning patients.
Operational Efficiency & Throughput
Research has failed to identify a clear link between longer wait times and worse patient care. However, when patients wait a long time, they are more likely to leave with a perceived negative experience even if they received quality care.
While patients typically expect at least a small amount of waiting for an appointment, their experience is shaped by the type of appointment they’re seeking:
- Walk-in appointments: Patients expect to be entered into a first-come, first-serve queue. They typically expect a longer wait but can become frustrated if they believe operations are moving too slowly.
- Booked appointments: Patients arrive expecting to be seen at their scheduled time, even in an urgent care setting where the unexpected can happy. Since these patients likely booked an appointment to avoid long waits, they can be more sensitive to schedule disruptions. Setting expectations and communicating if a high acuity patient has disrupted the ability to stay on time are key to success with this cohort.
In an urgent care setting, door-to-door times are a trusted reflection of operational efficiency: lower D2D times reflect greater efficiency and throughout, which leads to higher patient volumes and increased revenue for their clinic. A single patient visit can be broken into three distinct door-to-door phases:
- Arrived to Ready: This is the time it takes for the patient to be fully registered and ready to be called back by the medical assistant, nurse, or patient care technician. If ownership is assigned to each D2D phase, the receptionist or check in attendant should be responsible for this metric.
- Ready to Exam: This refers to how long it takes for the medical, nurse, or patient care technician to lead the patient to an exam room. These professionals should take responsibility for this metric.
- Exam to Discharge: This spans the time from the provider’s exam room arrival to the end of the visit.The providers should take responsibility for the exam to discharge metric.
When considering the impact of each layer of D2D times, hand-offs, steps, and how team members document matter. Seconds become minutes, and minutes become hours. The goal should be to reduce the amount of hand-offs and physical walking steps it takes to care for the patient. Documentation should preferably happen in the exam room with the patient for accuracy and efficiency in time.
Urgent cares can optimize day-to-day operations—and improve these efficiency metrics—through the following techniques:
- Optimized scheduling: From balanced bookable and walk-in appointments to self-service scheduling tools, better scheduling can set up the clinic for faster, more efficient patient care.
- Streamlined documentation: The use of mobile-optimized digital paperwork, OCR technology, and EHR integration can expedite the paperwork process when patients arrive. In some cases, patients can fill out this paperwork before arriving at the clinic for even faster care.
- Load balancing: Real-time patient volumes and wait time data can be used to load balance patients across your hours of operation at a single center or redirect patients to other urgent care clinics you own within a region with better availability, optimizing patient volume across an urgent care brand network.
- Online way-finding technology: Through digital way-finding technology, improved management of resources and staffing can facilitate more expedient care and lower door-to-door times while keeping patients in your care network
Online Reviews and Ratings
User reviews on Google and other review websites can have a profound impact on your urgent care clinic’s local reputation. According to the recent patient survey at Solv 86% of patients use online reviews to evaluate providers and clinics.
To maximize referrals and new patient acquisitions, your urgent care strategy should take a proactive approach to reputation management. We recommend the following four practices:
- Send text reminders requesting a review after a patient visit. Email can also be effective. These reminders should be sent shortly after the visit, while the experience is fresh on their minds.
- Send either a new patient survey or a review request—not both. Too many requests risk overwhelming the patient and getting nothing in response. We recommend a best practice of asking 70 percent of patients for an online review and asking the other 30 percent to fill out a survey.
- Ask for a review before the patient leaves the office. A face-to-face reminder from a provider or front desk admin is quick, easy, and effective. Ensure you are not gating verbal requests for reviews or offering incentives as it violates Google’s T&C’s.
- Respond to negative reviews. You can’t delete bad reviews, but a response shows that you care about patient feedback and are committed to improving the patient experience.
Build an Effective Urgent Care Strategy Through Better Data and Reporting
Identifying the best metrics for evaluating your urgent care’s performance is only half of the battle. To turn these metrics into actionable insights, urgent care providers need to break down data silos and implement continuous monitoring and reporting to track emerging trends and identify areas for improvement.
With Solv reporting and insights integration, your urgent care facility can drive volume growth, coach your team on opportunities for improvement, and build strategy on areas of strength. In addition, you can identify opportunities to expand and contract service lines, hours of operation, and staffing. Equip your company with the right information to make data-driven decisions that improve business performance and increase patient satisfaction.
Ready to learn more? Discover how Solv can provide daily access to metrics while improving patient experience.