The Ultimate Guide to Patient Engagement

Introduction

With so many options and the list still growing, urgent care patients can be fickle. If you want to win their hearts—and their repeat business—delivering an exceptional patient experience is essential.

Technology can help raise your level of engagement, but it takes more than online appointments.

In this eBook you’ll find technology-based solutions, tips, and smart ways to create a patient experience that builds your business and gives patients a reason to choose you when they’re looking for urgent care.

Chapter 1

The Psychology of Waiting and How it Affects Patients

Magazines scattered throughout a waiting room. An opening band before the main concert event. Televisions at the gate in the airport. While these types of distractions are commonplace, they definitely aren’t random. Instead, they’re an attempt to manage wait time. In the world of healthcare where waiting is generally expected, giving patients more ways to control their wait time can be an effective way to attract new customers—and keep them.

People often respond irrationally in waiting situations. In fact, people are routinely more satisfied with a clearly explained 30-minute wait than with an uncertain 20-minute wait. While it’s not rational, it is how human beings are wired.

Reaction to the experience of waiting while on hold trying to schedule an appointment, in line at the grocery store, or sitting in an urgent care waiting room, is defined less by the overall length of the wait, and more by the psychology of waiting.

To create the sort of experience that attracts and retains patients, urgent care operators must look at the source of patient expectations and perceptions about wait, rather than focusing solely on reducing its duration.

There’s been a good amount of research on the topic to validate this thesis. In 1985, operations expert David Maister, formerly of Harvard Business School, articulated a simple formula to explain satisfaction with the wait experience:

S=P–E
Satisfaction= perception–expectation.

He proposed a model for waiting psychology that would be later validated by the research of others.

In 2002, Daniel Kahnerman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his groundbreaking work in behavioral economics, a science that shows the limits of the assumption of rational behavior. Kahnerman and Amos Tversky uncovered cognitive biases that explain quite a bit about perceptions and behavior in waiting situations.

In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Dr. Richard Larson from MIT identified that “the real problem isn’t just the duration of a delay. It’s how you experience that duration.” In healthcare, researchers have established a clear link between perceived wait times, level of service, and satisfaction. This link affects more than just satisfaction with the wait; it colors the patient’s entire experience with the center.

The Psychology of Waiting

We now know much more about what sets people off when it comes to waiting, and how to transform the experience of waiting into a competitive advantage. First let’s look at a few items from David Maister’s work that illustrate what urgent care patients really hate about waiting:

1. WAITS OF UNCERTAIN DURATION

The perceived opportunity cost of an open-ended wait triggers loss aversion. Human beings respond about twice as strongly to the possibility of loss as they do to the possibility of gain.

That’s why an uncertain wait artificially magnifies the stress of waiting more than it should, and more than we’d otherwise expect. It’s also why Disney always lets you know how long you’ll wait in line.

2. WAITS PERCEIVED AS UNFAIR

Waits with no visible order, like waiting for a subway train, can create tremendous anxiety. However, that’s nothing compared to the reaction when there is a visible order, but that order appears to have been violated. Think about your own reaction when someone cuts in line. Even if they cut in line behind you, it’s still upsetting.

3. UNEXPLAINED WAITS

If an emergency requires the reordering and delay of patients, explaining this to patients fundamentally changes the context of the situation.

When a patient hears, “emergency,” his context and his expectations immediately shift—usually to a much more tolerant and understanding perspective.

3. UNOCCUPIED TIME

The classic example is the Houston airport that received complaints about the wait at baggage claim. The airport made improvements in the wait time but complaints persisted. Finally, they decided to increase the distance between arrival gates and baggage claim.

When passengers arrived at baggage claim after the long walk, their luggage was ready, and complaints vanished. By the way, a TV in the lobby showing Judge Judy reruns does not qualify as occupied time. Letting patients wait at home or drinking coffee at Starbucks does.

The Dangers of Unmanaged Waits

Richard Larson expands on the dangers of unoccupied time. He points to Disney as experts in occupying the time of guests waiting for rides. However, it’s much more difficult to make your waiting room an engaging environment than it is to simply let your patients wait somewhere else.

Dr. Larson also notes that people generally overestimate the time they spend waiting. To address this, give customers easily accessible, realistic estimates of wait times. This greatly improves the accuracy of the customers’ own guesses at how long they actually waited, and subsequently has a positive effect on satisfaction.

Kahneman and Tversky note that many cognitive biases are rooted in an overall bias for negativity. That is, humans are wired by evolution to respond more strongly to a threat than to a positive experience. A negativity bias is useful if you’re trying to avoid a saber-toothed tiger, but in modern life it often creates unnecessary discomfort. That’s why the amount of frustration we experience when the line moves slower than expected is much greater than the amount of pleasure we feel if we’re lucky to choose the fast line.

Setting Expectations

Kahneman and Tversky also noticed that the final moments of a waiting situation make the most meaningful impression. If the wait ends positively, like being seen earlier than expected, patient satisfaction goes up. Disney leverages this by overestimating wait times for their attractions so customers are pleasantly surprised when they wait less than expected. If you don’t have a reliable system to keep track of lobby waits, setting accurate expectations can be difficult to do.

People are sensitive to the value of the thing they’re waiting on. In environments where patients have options among urgent care centers, perceived value can increase with the popularity of the center. The higher the perceived value, the more the customer will be willing to wait.

However, once the part of the visit perceived as valuable— usually the time with the provider—is over, patients may have less tolerance for paperwork, waiting on a prescription, or a long discharge process.

In waiting situations of identical durations, people prefer a shorter but slower-moving line to a longer but quicker-moving one. This is just one more example of irrationality associated with waiting. In traditional theory, we should be neutral to the two options, but in practice we’re not.

On the surface, this appears to conflict with the idea that busy centers may have higher perceived value, but it doesn’t have to. The busy center just needs to make sure patients have options available other than sitting in the waiting room.

BE PROACTIVE TO BE COMPETITIVE

If you’re offering online reservations (similar to call-ahead restaurant seating), creating appropriate expectations is critical. Do patients think they’re creating an appointment, a flexible reservation, or simply joining a first-in, first-out line?

Communication in this context is important. If someone believes they have an “appointment”, they’re happy to wait up to the appointment time. But any time after that perceived appointment time can quickly become intolerable.

Managing perceptions about wait is an important topic to every urgent care center—not just busy ones. For many patients, especially millennials, patient perceptions can start early in the process, well before they’ve shown up at your center. It may begin at your website, a mobile app, or a Yelp review.

If your competitors are skilled at managing waiting psychology, then you need to be proactive to ensure the appropriate initial impression, even if your center is new and has low volume. If patients believe they have some measure of control over the waiting process, their satisfaction increases.

FACT: In an environment of uncertain, unexplained, or unfair waits, satisfaction drops precipitously, especially as the wait gets longer. In the age of online reviews, this can quickly sink a center’s reputation.

The good news is that you can dramatically improve overall patient satisfaction without the necessity of making the actual wait any shorter. You simply need to understand and address the sources of patient expectations and perceptions related to the waiting experience.

Special thanks to Dr. Garrett Bomba, director at Pentucket Medical, for his contribution to this article

Chapter 2

Four Reasons Urgent Care Patients Don’t Want an Online Appointment

Patients don’t want online appointments—they want flexibility, control of their healthcare, and care on-demand.

In fact, in the urgent care space, many patients don’t actually want to set an appointment at all. Patients love the convenience of dropping in without a reservation and getting in and out quickly. We concede. Many patients do want online reservations, simply because that’s the way we do things in the 21st century. And while many urgent care clinics are convinced that online appointments are the answer to patient engagement, it’s just not a complete answer.

The key to patient satisfaction is not setting appointments, but setting expectations. Clinics must have an effective way to manage every patient—whether they schedule online or walk in. With the right engagement tools, you provide transparency into the process and actually connect with your patients digitally so they feel in control of their urgent care experience.

And here’s the kicker: When you set patients’ expectations and deliver exceptional patient care, you get the result you’re looking for—loyal customers that feel valued and come back to you when they need urgent care.

Here are four reasons people don’t want just an online appointment.

Reason 1
They Want to be Seen ASAP

That’s why they showed up at your urgent care in the first place. The popularity of on-demand care has grown from a small niche market to a big part of healthcare today because of this very idea. Urgent cares see patients in real-time, no matter where they come from. When patients walk in they expect quick service, and if you’re busy, they want to hold a spot in line so they can leave and come back—super convenient, super patient-centered.

Online and in-lobby patient queues show patients their wait time and let them know when to show up for their appointments so they can reduce the time they spend in the waiting room. Managing the line waiting at the desk and streamlining the flow of patients is essential.

Managing all your patients is so much easier when you manage them all with one system. Online scheduling is great, but knowing the actual wait time and the ability to adjust their time for expected delays are more important to them. Patients’ expectations about their wait cause much more anxiety than the actual time they spend in the waiting room. Their uncertainty and the perception of unfairness can result in dissatisfaction with their experience, and eventually unflattering reviews and word of mouth.

Reason 2
Not Starting Insurance Contracts & Credentialing Soon Enough

Today’s consumers expect two-way communication, and technology not only allows them to meet this expectation, but exceeds it by providing a constant stream of connection with products and services—including urgent care.

When customers want to see an urgent care provider, it’s essential you’re available with a quick response. Text alerts are a great way to stay in the communication loop with your patients. Not only do they ensure patient transparency, but they also fulfill your patients’ need to stay connected. But not all alerts are created equal.

Automated communication based on real-time data for walk-ins and online schedulers sets real expectations, so patients show up in the waiting room just in time. Discounts agreed upon before you receive patients. Front desk collections will be an important piece to your clinic’s overall reimbursement.

Having a fee for service (FFS) or cash payment schedule in advance will allow the front desk staff to collect the appropriate amount before the patient is seen. It’s better for them and it helps you manage patient flow. They check in. They see the doc. They check out. That’s smooth and satisfying.

If you’re estimating times solely on online registrants or if front desk staff is checking the schedule, guessing the length of appointment delays, and hoping their text is accurate, you run the risk of miscommunication.

Miscommunication can be worse than no communication because it sets an inaccurate expectation for patients and increases dissatisfaction. It may result in patients leaving the office without ever seeing a doctor. Being proactive and letting patients know if something comes up goes a long way to building trust and goodwill. It demonstrates that you value their time—and it’s just good business.

Reason 3
They Already Have It

There are so many things people can do online that the novelty has worn off. It’s not new—it’s expected. Offering online scheduling is healthcare’s way of playing catch-up to other industries, and patients sense this. It’s good to offer your patients the convenience of booking their own visits online, when they want, and how they want. But how can you leverage this technology to take engagement a step further? Your patients understand technology and the convenience and opportunities it provides. An online engagement solution, that does more than replace a phone call, shows them that you understand this, too.

With queue management software that works in real-time, timely text messaging, and post-visit surveys in addition to online appointments, you actually build relationships with patients for the long term. An online appointment lasts a moment. Truly engaged patients last a lifetime.

Reason 4
They Want Extraordinary Care

In the end, patients want to be treated as if they’re your only patient. They want the best care available—and they want it now. It’s up to you to demonstrate their value. One of the best ways to show them is by giving them the opportunity to provide post-visit feedback.

Simple one-question text surveys give them a voice and lets them know you care. The smartest patient engagement solutions differentiate between positive and negative reviews.

They also give you the opportunity to run interference when feedback is less than positive. When you follow up an unfavorable survey response with a timely phone call, it reassures your patients that they matter and also discourages negative online reviews.

Chapter 3

To Keep Your Urgent Care Patients, Keep Them Happy with Patient Engagement

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 choose 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 urgent cares 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.

Relationships are 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.

The Changing Healthcare Consumer

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.

Patient engagement begins before a patient walks in your door.

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. Use advertising and marketing to introduce yourself as a clinic that understands their specific needs and shares their values.

While most urgent care patients share the need for convenient, affordable, high quality care, research on the people and businesses in your vicinity will help you discover more specific wants and needs.

TELL THEM ABOUT YOURSELF WITH AN INTERACTIVE, INFORMATION-RICH WEBSITE.

Your home page should be well organized, and position you as the best place for urgent care, and provide the essential information patients need—like location and phone number—right up front. Providing other patient resources and checklists online is an additional service that engages patients and adds value.

ENGAGE WITH THEM ON A PUBLIC SCALE WITH COMMUNITY SERVICE.

People want to know that care providers share their values. By participating in community events and volunteering for local educational opportunities, prospective patients start to know who you are, what’s important to you, and that you genuinely care about the surrounding neighborhood.

MAKE IT QUICK AND EASY TO SCHEDULE AN URGENT CARE VISIT.

With online or self-scheduling, patients can choose a convenient time to see the doctor. If online scheduling is not an option, be sure your front desk staff are accommodating, friendly, and transparent about wait times.

Engage patients during their visit.

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.

BE NICE.

Greet them like you’re happy to see them. Look at them. Listen. Follow-up. Be empathetic. When you treat them like a person instead of a chart, they’ll remember, and they’ll probably want to come back.

BE THOROUGH.

In urgent care, door-to-door time is important, but it should never outweigh patient care. Look beyond the obvious and make sure there’s nothing you’ve missed. Your EMR can help you to ensure you’ve thought of every possibility.

BE GENUINE.

Real engagement requires real transparency. Let your personality shine through and be real about symptoms, diagnosis, and need for follow-up. When you’re genuine, you will make a real and lasting connection with your patients. They’ll appreciate it.

PROVIDE EXCEPTIONAL CARE.

As care providers, it’s easy to downplay the importance of minor injuries or illnesses, but if it wasn’t significant to a patient, he wouldn’t be seeking medical care. Be sure that no matter what the reason for the visit, you take patients’ concerns seriously and treat them with the best medical care available.

Keep the conversation going.

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.

PROVIDE FOLLOW-UP RECOMMENDATIONS.

Send patients home with good advice, recommendations, and something to remember you by. In the urgent care industry, that may be immunization checklists for children, first aid booklets, or a free box of bandages.

Be creative, but provide something useful and relevant, that will make their lives better.

SUGGEST RELEVANT RESOURCES.

Position yourself as the healthcare expert in the neighborhood by suggesting relevant educational resources. Create a library of brochures about hot health and wellness topics, or provide a list of websites where patients may find out more about their specific issues.

GET PATIENT FEEDBACK.

Many online engagement tools allow clinics to get post-visit feedback quickly and when the details of the visit are still fresh in patients’ minds. Through emails, text messages, and SMS surveys, patients can provide comments and opinions that will not only remind the patient that their opinion matters, but will also provide valuable information about areas where service policies or procedures may need a little work.

PROVIDE A TIMELY RESPONSE TO POST-VISIT QUESTIONS.

After many urgent care visits, patients will follow up with their primary care provider. In some cases, they may call back with questions about their visit or for additional guidance. You’ll earn their trust and keep them engaged if you take the time to respond to calls or emails promptly.

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.

Chapter 4

Nine Steps to Getting Rid of the Urgent Care Waiting Room

Some people call it the most wasted real estate in urgent care. It’s a place where germs spread, minutes multiply, and frustration flourishes. It’s your waiting room.

The waiting room is really a throwback to yesterday’s healthcare model, where patients’ time was in the hands of a scheduler who had no real way to predict patient flow from hour to hour. In a patient-focused healthcare model powered by technology, patients control their time and their overall experience. They make choices about how they engage with providers, and decide who they will trust with their healthcare. And they don’t spend time in the waiting room.

Urgent cares that are on board with this patient-centric movement are looking for ways to improve the patient experience—and that includes minimizing the use of their waiting room, or removing it completely. And while greater patient satisfaction is one positive outcome, there are other measurable benefits for urgent cares, too.

While not every clinic can get rid of the waiting room altogether, there are smart steps everyone can take to phase out this inefficient space and make the wait less painful for patients.

STEP 1
Save-My-Spot Options With Real Wait Time Transparency

Patients have choices. They make decisions about visiting healthcare clinics in I-want-to-go micro-moments and take action online or on mobile devices. In the on-demand healthcare space, patients really don’t want an appointment— they want to drop in when it’s convenient, see a doctor, and get out quick. The entire urgent care market was built on this principle. So yes, you need an online presence, but not so much for online appointment setting, but to give patients the opportunity to get in line—virtually—before they get to the clinic.

Once they’re in line, give them a way to check their actual wait time with a queue they can view either online or in the lobby. A word of caution: once you set patient expectations with queue management, be sure the wait-time information you provide is accurate. Even the most experienced staff can miscalculate wait time.

Miscommunication can be worse than no communication and increases dissatisfaction. It may result in patients leaving the office without ever seeing a doctor. Use a solution that collects data in real time, includes both online and walk-in patients, and automatically shares wait times accurately.

Clinics that offer patients the convenience of getting in line online are taking advantage of these moments to engage patients before they arrive in the office for a visit. Adding online check-in can reduce the time patients spend in the office prior to their actual appointment which helps to reduce the number of patients in your waiting room.

STEP 2
Waiting Options For Walk-Ins

Improving the wait experience for patients should include everyone, not just those who save their space online. Give walk-ins a save-my-spot option so after checking in, they can decide whether they’ll wait in the waiting room, or leave and come back closer to their expected visit time. By giving all your patients this option, they take control of their time for a better patient experience.

STEP 3
Queue Management Solutions

Don’t use separate systems to manage patients that register in different ways. With a queue management solution that lets you handle online registrants and walk-ins in one system, you not only streamline your front desk work flow, but create a transparent, first-come-first-serve patient flow that reduces mis-perception and anxiety about unfairness.

High-visibility signs that direct patients to check in—even if they have made an online appointment—will ensure that every patient is entered into a single queue, allowing patients to flow through the system easily, transparently, and with less frustration.

STEP 4
In-Lobby and Virtual Online Queue

There are fewer reasons to spend time in a waiting room when patients can see their wait status at a glance with a lobby queue or from their mobile device.

If you want to get rid of your waiting room, this is a must-have option. And just as important, posted wait times shouldn’t be based on an educated guess, but real-time data that accounts for walk-ins and online registrants, so your patients can count on the information seen on your queue. They’ll appreciate a lobby queue if they can sign in and come back during their appointment time. Having the queue available via mobile keeps patients connected with your clinic so they can show up just in time.

STEP 5
Insurance and Financial Responsibility Pre-Verification

Any part of the appointment and check-in process that can be completed before a patient arrives for an appointment can reduce your need for an actual waiting room.

While insurance verification cannot be completed too far ahead of an appointment, most urgent care clinics that allow online and mobile registration should be well within an acceptable time-frame for checking insurance. Pre-verify a patients’ insurance before they show up at your clinic.

STEP 6
Pre-Visit Electronic Forms and Signature

The waiting room is often the space where new patients fill out disclosure and medical history forms. Making these forms available online and keeping signatures on file will help to reduce the time patients spend waiting, and the space required for a waiting room.

If electronic forms are not available, collect only critical information during front desk check-in such as name, insurance, and reason for the visit. Nurses can collect additional medical history etc. during patient intake— reducing (or getting rid of) time in the waiting room.

STEP 7
Setting Non-Urgent Care Appointments During Periods With Slower Traffic

With urgent cares adopting specialties like OccMed and pediatrics every day, some appointments will be made by patients in advance. To optimize your patient flow, try to schedule these patients during traditionally slower hours to avoid a traffic jam in your waiting room. Don’t let these patients, or your on-demand patients, experience delays based on unusually heavy patient flow.

STEP 8
Text Message Updates and Alerts

Good communication is key to giving people the choice about where to spend their time prior to being seen. Because most patients have a handy mobile device in their pocket, texting can be the primary means to share delays in wait time, status of lab results, and other patient information. This gives them back the time they set aside for waiting, allowing them to finish something on their to-do list, stop for a cup of coffee, or finish the episode of their latest Netflix binge.

Texting is one of the primary ways people communicate today. It only makes sense to share information with your patients, especially when the information can save them time and reduce the minutes they waste in your waiting room.

STEP 9
Telemedicine

It’s not surprising that we’re hearing more and more about distance medicine, or telehealth. The market for the internet of things (IoT) in healthcare keeps growing. Self-monitoring devices, smart sensors, and secure connections can safely connect patients with providers.

The IoT may be able to provide more interaction and make online medical visits more common. For the time being, telemedicine seems restricted primarily to specific cases where it is warranted and rural communities where immediate care is inconvenient.

In these cases, telemedicine offers non-critical patients a video appointment either right away or within a couple of hours. More options are becoming available every day, and the number of practitioners trained specifically to treat patients remotely is increasing.

The telemedicine option will not likely clear out your waiting room today, but as the technology gets better and better, patients learn to trust the IoT with their medical care, and best practices begin to emerge, telemedicine is likely to become another legitimate option for getting rid of your waiting room.

Reducing the need for a physical waiting room is just one of the many ways improved technology is changing how patients experience healthcare.

In the urgent care industry—a business built on convenience—it makes sense to do everything you can to give patients the convenience they demand before they even walk in to your clinic.

Chapter 5

Online Scheduling for Urgent Care: Which is Right for You?

Marketplace VS. White-Labeled Software

In the competitive healthcare market, everybody needs an online presence—beginning with your website and Google listing, and rounded out with social media. But with consumers tapping into tech to get information before making decisions, an online presence isn’t enough. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Ensuring your patients can reserve an appointment time online is one big way to engage. Accenture recently found 64 percent of patients are expected to book medical appointments online by the end of 2019. Not only does online appointment booking improve patient satisfaction and the user experience, it also boosts appointment capacity, reduces cost, balances patient volume, and increases productivity.

Urgent cares and medical facilities have a few different software options to streamline online reservations and improve the patient experience. The way these solutions integrate with your website and current software differs depending on the software provider.

Each solution offers unique benefits and some weaknesses. Choosing the right one for your medical facility depends on your specific needs.

HEALTHCARE MARKETPLACE:
Pairing Patients With “Best Match” Provider

A healthcare marketplace solution is similar to eBay or Open Table. Just like eBay, when patients pull up the healthcare marketplace website and search for a healthcare facility near them, they receive a list of marketplace partner providers (sellers) in the area, along with pricing, and an estimated wait time at each location. Patients compare you to other providers, and make their choice. If you’ve spent your marketing dollars well, established a strong brand, and are known as a trusted provider, you have a much better chance of being the chosen clinic.

This solution is beneficial for patients. It offers transparency into pricing, wait times, reviews, and distance from their address. It also establishes a level of trust between patients and the medical facility.

With this solution, healthcare providers can market to a completely new audience by allowing the software provider to do the heavy lifting. At times, it can help with brand awareness and visibility in the market as well.

The downside is you’re marketing and sending traffic to a third-party website where providers have to compete headto-head with other providers who use this same software. Patients have transparency into pricing and wait times not only for your clinic, but for competing facilities using the same software. This increases patient loyalty to the software provider, instead of your facility.

When you are marketing this add-on service in your facility, you are actually offering free marketing to other health-care providers using the service at the same time, while losing out on any branding opportunities that arise from people visiting your actual website.

With the marketplace option, you have to trust that your patients have heard of the software provider and are using it to book appointments with you on its website. If the software provider is not well known in the area, there isn’t much upside for your business. If you’re looking to collect any data on your market, you’re out of luck.

Since customers have to book appointments through the software provider’s website, you don’t have access to valuable data such as how the customer found your website and other demographic information entered into appointment forms.

Finally, you have to comply with the software company’s terms and conditions, look and feel of their website and format, and how they provide one “best match” clinic for the patient, which may not be your clinic.

Healthcare marketplace solutions can be a good choice for urgent cares who want to add online appointments without making any changes to their own website, and don’t mind competing with other clinics in their market.

For clinics that want more control over their own platform and marketing spend, there is another option.

WHITE LABELED SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS:
Engaging Patients on Your Website

If you’ve considered adding online reservations to your website but aren’t convinced you have the expertise or resources to build a custom online appointment platform, a white-label solution may be a good option.

“White-label” refers to a fully supported solution that’s made by someone else, but available to other companies, allowing the buyer (that’s you) to customize the software with its own brand, logo, and identity.

A white-label solution can offer more than just online appointment booking, including options for online queuing that can be added directly to your website.

When patients find you through an online search and go to your website, they will see a button to save their spot in line and also see the current estimated wait time. Patient queuing software integrates information for both online appointment setters and walk-ins for accurate wait time information.

White-labeled queue management software is ideal for patients who are loyal to a specific healthcare facility in their area or those who find their healthcare provider through a quick search on Google (“urgent care near me”).

If the facility has multiple locations in the same city, patients can easily view all their wait times on one screen and choose either the closest location or the one with the shortest wait time. Since this solution is specific to your clinics, patients also won’t see competing medical facilities in your area with comparison wait times and pricing. Once patients find you, there’s no reason for them to leave your page.

Data is becoming increasingly important to run a successful business. Hosting the software directly on your site allows you to capture all the customer data you want. Since it’s often customizable, you can get specific information from your patients to create your own database, target your market, or build reports to help you grow and better serve your patients’ needs.

With a white-label solution, you have a competitive advantage over other facilities in the area and can easily spread the word about this service in your waiting room, online, or by word of mouth.

Best of all, you use your marketing dollars to promote your own website—versus a third-party vendor’s—and send patients straight to it, where you engage with them, share information, and collect data to help you deliver a better experience. No detours. No extra clicks. No brand sacrifice.

Which one should you choose?

The end goal for clinics using either option is the same—to increase transparency and improve the patient experience. The right software solution depends on your facility’s specific needs. If you want more patients quick and aren’t as concerned about branding or competition, you may want to choose a marketplace solution, at least until your goals change. On the other hand, if you are focused on long-term growth and success and building a strong brand, consider implementing an integrated queuing solution into your website to maintain brand loyalty and improve patient satisfaction today, and into the future.

Conclusion

Keeping urgent care patients happy requires delivering a great customer experience from start to finish. From initial engagement, it’s your job to set realistic expectations, remove uncertainty, provide exceptional care, and effectively communicate with your patients. No one thing will ensure you get and keep your patients, but a comprehensive approach to patient engagement, including implementing a patient engagement solution such as Experity Patient Engagement, can get you there.