If you’re a hospital administrator, patient acquisition is probably one of your top challenges. Whether it’s competing with local hospitals or urgent care centers, you need new patients to drive your organization forward. Here are 4 ways hospitals can use virtual urgent care as part of their patient acquisition strategy:
1. Boost patient satisfaction by improving wait times for non-emergency visits
Patients are more likely to choose a hospital when they know how long their wait time will be and can plan accordingly. That’s why virtual urgent care is so beneficial for patient acquisition: it allows patients to access healthcare without having to worry about waiting in line- or even leaving the house, if necessary. Virtual visits also allow your staff to access healthcare immediately, reducing absences, schedule conflicts and understaffing scenarios.
By incorporating virtual urgent care into your curated list of emergency departments and current wait times on your website, you’ll be able to provide an enticing option as a 0 minute wait is compelling for those who would typically rely on the emergency department for non-urgent needs.
Additionally, many hospitals incorporate their virtual urgent care programs into their overall urgent care strategy as an additional “location”. Offering same-day in-person appointments alongside virtual care can help reduce patient wait times in multiple settings other than just the emergency room.
Want to take it a step further? Equip a spare, private exam room with a tablet and allow walk-ins to see a virtual provider instead of waiting to be seen by an in-person physician. Many patients do a quick online search to find their nearest urgent care and completely bypass telehealth services due to lack of experience and knowledge of these time saving services.
2. Expand your capacity without building (or staffing) more space
More patients typically means a requirement of more space and more providers to see them. However, virtual urgent care allows hospitals to expand their capacity without building more space. This is especially helpful in rural areas where there are fewer patients and providers available to see them.
According to Assets America, the average small hospital costs over $25 million to build. And, unless you can buy strategically placed land, you’re still going to miss out on a large part of your community population based on convenience of location compared to their home and workplaces.
It’s important to realize that expanding your capacity through a homegrown and self-staffed telehealth solution will have greater limitations than contracting with a vendor who has a proven technology platform and comes fully equipped with around-the-clock providers. Here are a few reasons:
- Hospitals and health systems are not in the business of technology. Telehealth vendors have been around for years perfecting the software and integrations necessary to deliver virtual experiences that will make patients happy. By building your own technology, you’re taking on additional costs, development resources, and a whole new level of patient support when things go wrong.
- Your existing providers already feel stretched thin, giving them the extra job of staffing a virtual platform will cause more burnout and frequent turnover. With limited staffing resources, your virtual urgent care program will result in an inability to scale and will drastically cut your patient acquisition results short.
- Want to play by the rules? You better have a set list of provider qualifications, regular telehealth training sessions, quality review on virtual visits to maintain compliance, and be up to date on the latest in online virtual excellence.
- Integrations can be tricky. In order to properly track patient acquisition via your virtual urgent care channel, there must be a direct connection to your EHR solution that is bi-directional to allow for new records to be created and existing records to be updated with pertinent healthcare records.
When all is said and done, the best way to compete with local hospitals or urgent care centers is by providing better patient experiences. Virtual technology will never replace in-person health care provision; it’s just a tool that can make a hospital’s job easier. If you use virtual services to provide high quality healthcare without burdening your existing providers, they’ll love you for it!
3. Improve employee retention through flexible scheduling options and reduced workloads
Have you ever talked to your emergency room or urgent care physicians about the types of conditions they frequently see within their departments? Chances are, patient volume is high and the number of hours they’re working each week has increased so much that it’s affecting their health. Not only do studies show a correlation between long workweeks with higher rates of chronic disease such as obesity and cardiovascular issues but burnout also negatively impacts morale for both physician and staff alike.
Virtual urgent care services allow hospitals to offer extended office hours for physicians while taking pressure off overworked emergency departments. Two-way video visits make it possible for patients who need more time or an in-person exam from a doctor to still receive this type of service without leaving home or work at inconvenient times. The ability to provide these services through virtual urgent care frees up space within your organization which can then trickle down to your in-person providers.
We recently compared top 10 ER diagnoses to top 10 conditions diagnosed via telehealth visits. There is a high correlation between the two. This means that virtual urgent care can be an effective way to diagnose and manage illness in an outpatient setting, which reduces patient volume at your ER and frees up more time for patients who need it most.
Virtual urgent care also has the ability to offer new services like telemedicine visits with specialists if you don’t have them on staff or want to contract with outside providers for specialty services without having to leave home.
4. Increase referrals from satisfied customers
Patients who have a good experience at your hospital are more likely to recommend you. Studies show that patients with positive experiences are nearly three times as likely to refer their friends and family, so it’s important for hospitals striving to acquire new patients through patient referrals or word of mouth marketing campaigns.
Multiple sources share that patients are now demanding virtual care options and will look elsewhere if their local provider doesn’t offer the service. Keep in mind that if you’re looking to increase patient acquisition, your virtual urgent care service must be available to new patients and not just those who already use your services. Virtual urgent care is a step beyond virtual primary care appointments that can be scheduled during regular business hours.
Virtual urgent care should available 24/7, 365 days a year without the need for long wait times or limited appointments.
If done correctly, the service can be a win-win for your organization and patients. A hospital that offers virtual urgent care has eliminated one of the top reasons why people leave their doctor – long wait times.
Ultimately, there are many benefits to using virtual urgent care as part of a patient acquisition strategy including easy access to services without having to travel outside of your neighborhood or city limits; convenience with appointment scheduling at anytime convenient for you (including evenings, weekends); minimal waiting time because providers are always available–there’s no need to schedule an appointment during regular business hours; more privacy during treatment.
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