Going to the urgent care isn’t fun. Mostly because it means someone is sick, broken, or in pain. Sometimes it means their kid’s sick. That can be worse. They’re tired, anxious, impatient, and would like to be anywhere else. And they’re counting on you to make it better.
When they arrive with their sniffles and sprains, they lay an opportunity at your feet. In the few minutes they chose to spend with you and your staff, you can either prove that they made a good choice, or you can make them regret it.
Relationship marketing is all about making them feel good about their choice, and giving them a reason to choose you again. Remember they picked you in the first place. And providing a good urgent care experience means there may be a second date. And hopefully, a long-term relationship.
There’s a reason that most successful businesses focus on patient engagement. To be satisfied—even happy—today’s consumer wants a relationship. This is true of urgent care patients. They know they have choices. And if you don’t treat them right, they’ll break up with you and find someone else to make them happy. First impressions are like a first date. If you aren’t impressive, a patient just may lose your number.
Relationship is especially important to your business today, because healthcare has changed in big ways. Consumers have become accustomed to an on-demand, customized experience in all areas of their life. Medical care is no exception. Let’s take a look at the way patients have changed right along with the healthcare landscape.
In the past, most people had a primary care physician that was available most of the time without a long waiting period. Patients with more urgent needs were handled as a priority, and sometimes sent to a specialist or hospital for specific, emergency, or longer-term care. Without many options, patients understood the process, kept their expectations reasonable, and accepted the model.
Today patients have choices—lots of them. In fact, according to a 2015 Fair Health Report, many adults ages 18-44 are more likely to rely on urgent care when they’re in need of healthcare than a primary care physician. Only 43 percent said they would choose primary care. People who have lower salaries also said they would choose the convenience—and perceived lower cost—of urgent care clinics, retail clinics, and when warranted, emergency rooms. In addition, time has become a currency almost as valuable as money. Today’s patients expect care when they need it, without waiting for an appointment.
As an urgent care provider, you’re not trying to replace the primary care clinics in your area, but instead cultivate long-term trust that will lead patients back to you when the time is right.
Just because this new breed of healthcare consumer weighs its options, doesn’t mean they can’t commit to a relationship. And strong relationships begin with engagement.
If you want to know how to build relationships, think about the way you begin relationships with friends—get to know who they are, what’s important to them, and what their kids do on the weekend. Watch, listen, and take note. Once you get to know them, you’ll understand them. You’ll know what’s important to them, and you’ll know how to best engage.
In the same way you nurture a new relationship in your personal life, you have to show your patients you genuinely care—about their health, about their time, and about the things they value.
Put standard practices in place to make their visit more convenient, their time well spent, and their anxiety less palpable.
If you’ve engaged a patient up through this point, the odds for a long-term relationship are good, especially after they begin to feel better due to your care—but there’s still more to do. Don’t sacrifice all the good will and trust you’ve built with a good customer visit experience with inferior follow-up.
In the urgent care industry, building relationships is more important than it has ever been. It requires a patient-centric care model, two-way communication, and a commitment to keeping your customers satisfied and happy. Relationships take time, but once your patients get to know you, believe that you genuinely care about them, and exceed their expectations by providing value, they’ll be ready to make a commitment.
Fair Health (2015). Understanding Consumer Health Insurance Preferences. Retrieved from http://www.fairhealth.org/AdvancingOurMission?sk=Resource%20library#Resources for Consumer Engagement.