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Urgent care providers should be wary of new patient check-in systems that purport to cut down their wait times, keep their waiting rooms full and improve their online reviews. They may sound like they’ll boost your business, but they’re no more than Trojan horses that’ll undercut your profits and lower the quality of health care for your patients.

These systems let patients schedule appointments at your urgent care center, see how long their wait times are and check whether their insurance is accepted at your center. New patients can also discover your urgent care center through these systems.

What’s not to like? Well, what about the fact that patients can also discover and make appointments with your competitors through these systems?

Marketplaces for Urgent Care

That’s right; these systems are like Open Table or Amazon. They essentially create urgent care marketplaces where patients use mobile apps to search for open appointments near where they are. Patients find a time and location that meets their needs, check if that location takes their insurance, and then book their appointment.

And that appointment could be with your urgent care center or with your competitor down the street.

Evaluate New Products Carefully

They don’t tell you this while they’re pitching these services to you, so urgent care providers need to be really discerning when evaluating new patient check-in services. These companies usually say their software will increase patient volume, decrease wait times, simplify the patient check-in process, and increase patient satisfaction. The language on their sales pages focus on the benefits to your urgent care center with no mention of the fact that if your waiting room gets busy, patients can cancel their bookings at your center and make a reservation with your competitors instead.

Why Urgent Cares Should Be Wary

For consumers, this sounds like a powerful experience, putting the choice in their hands. But health care isn’t the same as restaurant reservations or rideshare services and shouldn’t be treated as such. These are people’s lives we are talking about, and commodifying that kind of service can have serious consequences.

Take rideshare services, for example. Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft use mobile apps to match people who need a ride with people who have time and a vehicle. They commodify transportation with rates that adjust to supply and demand. While they do have feedback ratings, users are unable to choose drivers based on that rating; they are assigned based on the closest available car.

However, some rideshare services have been highly criticized for low quality drivers and lack of availability as a result of a business model that doesn’t reward performance. Highly rated drivers get paid the same and don’t get any more jobs than mediocre drivers. Basically, these rideshare companies are looking to maximize their revenues by having as many drivers on the road as possible, so they let just about anyone drive for them and keep driver fees low.

Now translate that to the health care setting with a mobile app that allows patients to search for any available urgent care center, incentivizing urgent care providers to commodify the patient experience and take low reimbursement.

These types of patient check-in systems aren’t going to provide value to you or your patients. They’ll only provide value to the software companies’ bottom lines.

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