2021 was a tumultuous year for urgent care clinics. From operational challenges impacted by patient volumes to new regulatory procedures, it’s been a period of learning and adjustment. Solv scheduled 22 million urgent care visits through our platform last year and we’ve generated a huge amount of data that we’re translating into insights, trends, and key takeaways for urgent care clinics.
With this data, urgent care clinic operators and decision-makers will be able to better identify who their key patients are, what those patients really care about, and the best ways to generate patient engagement and long-term loyalty for urgent care clinics.
All the statistics and figures we highlight in this article come from a webinar that we host on the same topic. If you’d like to:
- Elevate your patient experience
- Bring in new patients
- Drive loyalty from your existing patients
Make sure that you click here to watch the free on-demand webinar.
You’ll hear from Rob Rohatsch, MD (Solv’s Chief Medical Officer), Michael Barber (Solv’s Senior Director of Growth), and Skylar Saffold (Solv’s Director of Consumer Brand).
Part 1: How COVID Affected Urgent Care Clinics
Shifting to Telemedicine
Almost all of the challenges faced by urgent care clinics in 2021 were shaped by three waves of COVID: the trail end of Alpha, Delta, and the beginning of Omicron. Naturally, COVID-related visits to clinics exploded, becoming the single largest type of visits:
However, even when we isolate our data to remove COVID-related visits to urgent care clinics, we find a key piece of data: the acceleration of telemedicine.
Before COVID, telemedicine visits were between 0 and 1% of visits to urgent care clinics. Unsurprisingly, the incidence of telemedicine increased somewhat during each COVID wave, to a peak of 25%, and declined during the lulls in between waves. However, telemedicine visits didn’t disappear entirely but instead settled between 10 and 15% of visits. That likely represents how in-demand telemedicine will remain even as COVID becomes endemic in the future.
Patients Want to Book Online
The second major change for urgent care clinics during 2021 that is a direct result of COVID is the rate at which patients book online. Over the course of the pandemic, online booking has climbed from about 20% to just over 50% of visits.
As with telemedicine, booking online does dip slightly during the period between waves, but remains a strong upward trend for urgent care clinics and that will most likely continue in 2022 and beyond.
3x More Visits To Urgent Care Overall
Perhaps most importantly, overall interest in urgent care increased during COVID as well. Looking at search volumes from Google Trends, we can see a strong behavioral shift.
In the last 5 years, the search volume for urgent care has increased 200%. COVID has played an enormous role in this. Why? Consumers are looking for the on-demand convenience that urgent care offers. Urgent care clinics have been instrumental in offering COVID testing which has had an outsized influence on overall urgent care demand.
Part 2: What Urgent Care Patients Really Want
As the demand for urgent care clinics has increased, so has the number of urgent care clinics available. The clinics that stand out and drive success are those that best deliver what their patients want, by getting ahead of the curve.
Using data from 22M urgent care visits, and a survey of over 200,000 respondents done by Solv, we’ve zeroed in on exactly what urgent care patients care about most.
Convenience Above All Else
No matter what the demographic of the urgent care patient, the data has one strong lesson for us: convenience matters more than anything else. And clinics that don’t deliver a convenient experience risk losing patients to other clinics that do.
When we asked patients about their entire experience, from booking to leaving the clinic after the appointment, the top words in their responses all circled around convenience. Things like easy, fast, and efficient.
In 2022, our definition of convenience has accelerated, and just like online shoppers want their deliveries instantly, that same expectation has translated to healthcare.
Meet Your Patients Where They Are
Patients are tired of being inconvenienced by their healthcare providers. This can be broken down into two key insights:
- Meet patients where they are when they want to book. Allow them to book online (or by smartphone app) with as few steps and clicks as possible.
- Telemedicine is here to stay. Driven by patient desire to reduce exposure to COVID, demand for telemedicine will remain strong.
Convenience Brings Value to Patients and to Clinics
Urgent care clinics that lean into quick, convenient booking systems do more than just make their patients happier: they actually increase their own revenue, too.
Using tools like Solv, which allow patients to rebook at a clinic using only two taps can streamline the clinical workflow, and drive an increase in revenue by saving staff time spent on manual tasks.
In our polling data, convenient appointment times ranked even higher than the quality of the doctor! Everything that clinics can do to reduce friction around booking appointments makes a huge difference in how positive the experience is for their patients.
Part 3: Why Booking Online Makes the Difference
Booking appointments online or by app isn’t just a “nice to have.” For 54% of respondents, it’s very important in choosing an urgent care clinic. And an incredible 92% of patients are more likely to visit a clinic again because it offers online scheduling.
But it’s important to use the right tool to book online. Patients who used Solv for their online booking found that 90% of their patients stayed loyal.
When patients have a positive experience using an online booking system like Solv, they connect that ease of use with the clinic that they visit, and the happier a patient is, the more likely they are to return.
Our data show that patients who were happy enough to leave a 5-star review for a clinic were 2 times more likely to return to that same clinic again. Want more 5-star reviews? Urgent Care Clinics who used Solv average 5 times more 5-star reviews after 6 months. Why? Because a more comprehensive, better patient experience makes patients happier.
COVID has driven so many changes for urgent care clinics that are here to stay, in 2022 and beyond. Consumer expectations have switched to an insatiable demand for conveniences like online booking and telemedicine.
Clinics that move quickly to adopt these progressive processes take full advantage of this swell in demand for urgent care. They’ll position themselves to stand out from other clinics, increase the loyalty of existing customers, and increase their overall revenue in the future.
These insights are just a small sliver of the data and analysis we cover in this webinar. We look at everything we learned from scheduling 22 million urgent care visits and combine it with polling data put together by Solv that includes over 200,000 responses.
In the webinar, you’ll also learn:
- How to develop a moat for your urgent care clinic to protect your business from competitors
- The demographics behind who books visits to urgent care clinics
- How booking availability affects patient behaviors
- The best way to increase patient loyalty
- Next steps for urgent care operators to deal with changing patient expectations