Setting Your Urgent Care Hours: Convenience vs. Cost Effectiveness

When it comes to urgent care, patients expect clinics to be open whenever they have a need for care—regardless of the hour. How do you find the right balance? Instead of randomly choosing what hours to open and close your doors, here are a few factors to consider.

Cost Considerations

Take a good look at your overhead and revenue. How will expanding or reducing your hours of operation affect the bottom line?

When you look at the cost of operation and overhead versus the revenue your urgent care is generating, it’s easy to see why your hours can have a big effect on your bottom line. If you’re open 24-hours every day of the week, you’ll have significantly higher costs. Without enough patient volume, this means lower profits. Think about:

  • Payroll cost of night vs. daytime staff
  • Differences in staffing needs by shift
  • The pay rate of different personnel throughout the day

Setting New Clinic Hours

The hours you’re open can have a big effect on revenue from day one. Before deciding on the hours, consider physical location. What other businesses are close by? What is the demographic of the people that live in or travel through the area? The right hours will depend on the clientele. If it is based in a school or business district, the hours might be different than if it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Urgent cares located around businesses will likely attract more customers before and during the workday. However, for clinics in family-friendly areas, it may be better to add overnight hours for late night crises. Families will appreciate your hours, and stay loyal, if your urgent care offers extended hours to avoid emergency room visits for infants and kids with high fevers or illnesses that show up overnight.

As illustrated in our Urgent Care Quarterly Spring 2017 issue, a small percentage of clinics are open late at night. Depending on the surrounding competition and clientele, this could provide an opportunity for new urgent cares to attract clients. Offering medical care at late hours might be the competitive advantage you need in a market with a lot of competition.

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Consistent open and closing times are also important. Regular patients become accustomed to your hours, and new patients will never return to doors that they’ve found locked in the past. Consistent hours help build loyalty. Never give patients, or potential patients, a reason to move their business because they can’t count on you being open when they need care. Be sure your hours are posted clearly and repeated on all marketing brochures and advertising.

Thinking of Changing Hours?

Visit volume for new clinics will be lower during the first year or two until the urgent care is more established. Recent data from the Urgent Care Quarterly suggests that in most cases it takes 18-24 months for a clinic to receive consistent patient volume.

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Once you set hours for a new clinic, wait at least a year to make changes unless you have a very good reason for doing so. Try to set hours that allow you to see the most people and allow you to recognize any patterns of traffic that will help you more efficiently staff your clinic. You’ll also have the opportunity to gauge the demographic of your patients. If you’ve done an adequate amount of research, you should know these characteristics before you open your clinic, but it’s good to know you’ve set hours that accommodate your client base.

Once your urgent care has matured, take another look at visit volumes and evaluate hours. If you do choose to change your hours, it’s essential to spread the word through active communication and marketing.

Should you be Open on Holidays?

One of the most profitable times for urgent care can be during the holiday season. While Fourth of July or Christmas Day may be slow, Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving can be extremely busy times. Again, your location and competition will have an effect on how busy you are during the holidays. Opening your clinic doors might bring a boost in revenue.

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Information matters, especially for new clinics and in competitive markets. This begins with clear, visible signage. Be sure you’re networking with organizations in your area to help promote your business. Communicate your hours clearly on all printed materials about your clinics. Spread the word about your clinic to local media outlets—radio, newspapers, and television channels—that reach your specific demographic. And finally, take advantage of speaking and public relations opportunities to increase brand awareness.

Your hours of operation can have a big impact on the visit volume (and revenue) in your clinic.

This resource was first published prior to the 2019 merger between DocuTAP and Practice Velocity. The content reflects our legacy brands.