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So you want to open your urgent care during cold and flu season? Is this going to be good or bad for your clinic? While opening your clinic during this busy season may prove to be financially beneficial, it also exposes your clinic to situations that may have a long-term effect on your success.
Here are some Pros and Cons to opening during cold and flu season:
Pro: Higher volume equals higher revenue in 30 to 60 days, that is. Let’s face it, as an urgent care owner you know that the bottom line is the more patients that walk through the door, the more profitable your clinic will be. Keep in mind that higher patient counts mean you’ll be utilizing more resources (i.e. staff, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals). Be sure you plan accordingly and have enough cash-on-hand to cover these inflated expenses from month to month while you await reimbursement from the payers.
Con: As previously mentioned, the stress on your staff in those early days will only be multiplied if you open during the busy season. If you’ve ever moved or changed jobs, you know that it takes a couple of weeks to get acclimated to your surroundings and to be comfortable and confident with the processes and work flow of a new environment. The same will be true in your urgent care. It may be as significant as how to optimize patient flow through your clinic or something a little more low-profile such as determining which supplies to store where. In any event, trying to work out these kinks with a full waiting room may cause a great deal of anxiety on your staff. Again, with proper forethought and adequate planning, your team could avoid many of these additional stressors and be able to focus their energy where it’s needed most: on patient care.
Pro: Another great point to mention is that you will be meeting the needs of your community when it is needed most! This creates an opportunity for greater patient satisfaction as long as your clinic is running smoothly and the patients are receiving the care they need in a timely manner. Remember, word-of-mouth is highly effective marketing, be sure it’s positive rather than negative.
Con-versely, just as you could be reaching great patient satisfaction, you could be failing, too. A disorderly clinic, long-wait times and insufficient staffing could leave your patients feeling neglected and still sick! Another word on word-of-mouth, a dissatisfied person is much more likely to share their experience with family, friends and acquaintances, that the satisfied person.
Pro: As previously mentioned, a patient is an almost guaranteed source of marketing, good, bad or otherwise. The more patients you see, the more word-of-mouth advertisement you’ll get. In addition to word about your clinic getting around, you’ll have the unique opportunity to brand yourself to treat whatever ails the members of your community, when needed. Be sure to market on all levels, a newspaper ad, maybe even a spotlight article, mailing fliers, radio and/or television commercials and even door hangers to canvas the nearby neighborhoods. During cold and flu season more people visit urgent care clinics than any other time of year, put some resources behind your marketing to be sure that when a potential patient gets sick, it’s your clinic that is at the top of their mind. The patients that are seen today will be the patients that return in the future. Start building your patient base early and in a BIG way!
Con: Finally, just as easily as your patients come down with a cold or flu, so can your staff. In those early days of operation, staffing conservatively is a key element to keeping costs down. That said, if you are already staffed on the lean side, have a team member or two out sick and are experiencing increased patient volumes, it will be easy for the remaining staff to become overwhelmed and consequently, not providing excellent patient care.
The good news is that there are many positive aspects to opening your clinic during cold and flu season. The bad news is that there is potential for just as many negative outcomes. With some extra planning and preparation and a lot of flexibility, your clinic and staff will survive this first season and come out of it stronger, better and with higher patient satisfaction moving forward.