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Healthcare Urgent care marketing: Is convenience everything?

When it comes to urgent care marketing, one might be tempted to believe it's sufficient to show up on Google maps and call it a day. After all, who really cares about the name of their clinician when they've got the flu? Common sense dictates that most patients who are urgently ill would like to find the closest place they can get well and get there as quickly as possible. Disagree? Try telling a mother whose child has been up all night with an earache any different.

Given how central location services are to the mobile experience, going all-in on location-based marketing feels like an even safer bet. After all, more than half of all internet users get online with a mobile device,[1] and nearly 60% search with a phone or tablet.[2] Perhaps a significant investment in a proximity strategy, with beacons and mobile push notifications is just the edge a clinic needs.

While it is accurate to say a location strategy is necessary, when it comes to prioritization within a specific, individual clinic's digital marketing mix, results may vary. Without being too cute about it, the importance of location-focused marketing depends on, well, your location.
 
I know this statement is true because the number of clinics within a fifteen-minute drive for a patient in Los Angeles is entirely different than for a similar patient in Los Alamos. Living in the former, I can tell you there are no less than a half-dozen options within a fifteen-minute walk from my front door. Having visited the latter, I can tell you that the number is zero.
 

In urgent care marketing, the mission is > convenience

 
The entire premise of this post is based on the inaccurate assumption that the purpose of urgent care marketing is purely competitive. And with organizations like CVS and Walgreens entering the space, one could be forgiven for making this mistake of believing this is the case. It is not, of course.
 
Competition may be a contributing factor in some scenarios, but the primary use of good marketing in healthcare should be to align with the institutional mission of improving population health at the maximum level of efficiency that does not compromise outcomes. Next in line, in terms of priorities, would be to improve the patient experience to the extent possible. While it could be argued that convenience will improve the patient experience, this is not true in all cases. 
 
There is no 'one size fits all' approach in marketing and this is why good consultants, particularly at the crossroads of digital transformation, want so badly to engage in comprehensive, strategic discovery. But I digress.
 
It is possible that helping patients find the closest location for care supports the higher order goal of efficiently improving health. Or, to the contrary, one may better support the overall mission by assisting patients to understand the situations when they should travel an extra five minutes to get to an urgent care facility instead of the local emergency room.
 
Besides freeing up resources for emergencies, the latter is a notion the CFO of any large healthcare system is sure to appreciate. After all, the cost of an average emergency room visit can easily surpass $1,000 (compared to $150 for urgent care). This issue is particularly vexatious considering 80% of emergency room patients are never admitted to the hospital, indicating they probably did not need to visit the ER in the first place.[3]
 
Interestingly, when reading our recent research on the topic of the digital patient experience, I noticed many of the most recognizable health care systems favor the objective of helping prospective patients find a physician above educating them about options that might really make a difference for them as an individual, the hospital, and the community writ large. If this is evidence that competition is playing a more significant role in healthcare marketing than it should be, I am not surprised.
 
Lower costs, shorter wait times, an aging population, and investment in the sector are driving a compound annual growth rate of 5.3% in the urgent care market, and it is expected to reach $26 billion by 2023.[4] With all of this investment and big-name, publicly traded corporations crowding in, redundancy is inevitable, making competition, at least in the short-term, an outsized -if not unwelcome- factor for consideration.
 
If you have questions about bringing healthcare innovation to market, we have a deep data set to share. Qualified institutions are eligible for a no-cost read through of the annual Healthcare Digital Experience (HDX-15) Index with its author, Dave Wieneke. Please feel free to contact us for more information.

[1] Statista: Share of mobile internet traffic by global region

[2] Search Engine Land: Nearly 60% of searches now on social devices

[3] Beckers Hospital Review: The Rise of Urgent Care - 5 Statistics

[4] Healthcare Dive: Urgent Care Market on Track to hit 26B

 

 

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