Urgent Care Brand Battle
I started playing tennis well over age 40 and for the last six years I’ve been on a United States Tennis Association (USTA) ladies doubles tennis team that travels to outdoor public courts for a 10-week season in late spring.
With a variety of different partners, I’ve only won a couple of matches overall but last year in my very first set of the season, at a local high school court, running backwards to win a point, I slipped and broke my fall with my left wrist.
One of my opponents was a physician. While accepting our forfeit, she shared her ice packs, asked me a few questions and determined that my wrist was likely broken. She then strongly suggested that I go to an urgent care center rather than a hospital emergency room because it would be “cheaper” and “faster.”
Through the nausea and pain, that made sense. But has this ever happened to you? On a normal day when you’re driving around it seems like there’s an urgent care center on every corner but then, when you really need one, you can’t remember where they are and you can’t decide which one to go to.
Netting Profit in Urgent Care
I’m a healthcare communicator who’s keenly aware of the multitude of competing players so I was actually having an urgent care brand battle in my pain-dulled brain.
As I drove my Jeep out of the high school parking lot with one arm, I seemed to be predisposed against several out-of-town-owned urgent care center brands with generic names and highly evolved signage. Clearly they weren’t the only choices in our highly populated, competitive region. There are many urgent care options to choose from.
Should I go to the urgent care center run by the major regional academic medical center with the highest level of trauma care? Or the Catholic health system’s beautiful new centrally located one? What about the highly regarded local community health system’s urgent care centers, they have a few? Before they opened four more with closer locations, it was further away but attached to an imaging center. I was probably going to need X-rays. At the time, I didn’t even know that the dominant 250-doctor regional multi-location orthopedic practice had a specialty orthopedic urgent care center just 10 minutes away.
Acing Patients’ Needs
At healthcare provider marketing conferences, I always attend the sessions on ambulatory care strategies. There is so much pressure for health systems to turn their focus away from filling hospital beds to providing care where and how consumers want it.
As we all know, that has spurred massive growth in the urgent care category. Here are some points to consider if your organization is expanding into new communities:
- The Magic of Location: We promoted shopping centers for more than 20 years and learned that there’s nothing more magical than the perfect location for maximum traffic, visibility, choice and convenience for consumers. There’s a lot of land grabbing in affluent suburban zip codes. Do key corners get the business? Time will tell who the survivors are.
- Brand Signage: It matters. I was driving yesterday in a different state and noticed several major health system urgent care centers in brand new strip malls or free-standing buildings. They had little signs with small logos devoid of enthusiasm. It looked like a bean counter cut the sign budget, which I understand considering how many TV ads and billboards they’re paying for. But this underwhelming brand presentation, the main driver of where people will go with their healthcare dollars, is inconsistent with the healthcare provider’s brand advertising. And it looks weak compared with competitors who understand location branding.
- Consumerism: When the doctor came in with my X-ray results at the urgent care center, he confirmed that my wrist was broken and gave me the card of an orthopedic practice also owned by the same health system and told me to call for an appointment after the weekend. I thought that was a really smart “feeder” strategy until I looked at the card and saw the practice was in another county 30 minutes away. So I tapped my social media networks over the weekend asking for orthopedist referrals and ended up with a much more convenient and more highly credentialed choice. How about if the urgent care center makes your follow-up appointment the next week at a location convenient to your home or work before you leave? Then, you just have to show up and they’ve already heard about you.
My wrist healed beautifully and this year’s season just ended. The Volley Girls are already looking ahead to next year. I finally won a set but not a match.
– Lisa Simon, SPRYTE CEO