Urgent message: Traditional marketing and advertising only goes so far in building an urgent care practice. That’s why developing personal relationships with patients, staff, and other stakeholders is key to differentiating your practice, driving patient loyalty that results in repeat visits, and spurring positive word-of-mouth in your community.
Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Chief Executive Officer of Velocity Urgent Care and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine
Whoever said urgent care can’t be personal? Sure, the practice model is episodic with a heavy emphasis on speed and throughput, but today’s patient increasingly demands a personal touch throughout all phases of their medical care. They want an operation that’s well-oiled yet welcoming, providers who are fast yet friendly, and an experience that’s cost-effective yet caring.
Indeed, patient experience remains among the driving initiatives across the new healthcare landscape, but the effort to make your urgent care personal must go beyond serving patients. Your care team members, partners, and other stakeholders can also greatly benefit from a personal touch. Indeed, people increasingly want to feel connected and fulfilled in the workplace, such that a concerted effort to cultivate personal relationships throughout every phase of your urgent care operation can only strengthen your brand, and lay the groundwork for success. To that end, here are several key principles your practice should embrace to infuse your operation with a much-needed personal touch toward wowing your valued patients, nurturing your best employees, and embracing your key stakeholders.
When your aim is to get your patient in and out of your center as fast as possible, how can you ensure the entire visit still feels personal? By examining each touchpoint the patient encounters, and ensuring that its focus is designed to make the patient feel like a welcomed guest. Key touchpoints include:
- Roll out the red carpet. As the urgent care staff moves the patient through registration to check-out, they should act as concierges at a five-star hotel. Smiles, greetings, and use of the patient’s name whenever possible should be the order of the day. Additionally, liberal use of such niceties as “please” and “thank you” must become the standard.
- Apologize and remedy. Delays, misunderstandings, and errors should be followed by heartfelt apologies and prompt remedies. Active listening and repeating back patient complaints demonstrates that you’re truly listening.
- Personalize and inform. Clinicians and staff should give their name and job title when encountering patients, as well as explain to patients what happens at each step, how long it will take, and any other pertinent information they need.
Most people who work in medical professions truly enjoy helping others, and want to make a difference. They also want to feel like they’re a valued member of a team. Hence, you can create a personal connection with your staff in some of the following ways:
- Take an interest your staff personally. Ask about kids and spouses, remember names, and inquire about them often. Find out your employees’ hobbies and favorite sports teams, then draw connections and parallels whenever you can. Also, familiarize yourself with your staff’s career aspirations, and provide advice, guidance, and encouragement.
- Formal recognition for job performance. Did a patient recently rave about how well they were treated by an employee? Acknowledge that employee in front of the entire team and give them a small gift card or other token of appreciation. Notice a staffer going above and beyond? Give them a heartfelt thank you and let them know how important they are to the operation.
- Empower and solicit feedback. Whether during formal meetings or informal morning/afternoon huddles, encourage honest feedback from staff on how to improve operations, how to make their jobs easier, and how to better serve patients. Then empower them with the tools and knowledge to do so.
Urgent care stakeholders might include community partners, occ-med clients, referring physicians, and/or suppliers. Your practice can apply the personal touch here, as well, toward strengthening these relationships and solidifying its relationship in the community.
- Develop and distribute relevant content. Whether its social media channels, email, a paper newsletter, or web content, keep your stakeholders abreast of important health news, as well as important happenings within your center.
- Solicit feedback. Through surveys, questionnaires, or simple direct inquiry, “take the temperature” of your center by asking your stakeholders how well you’re doing in fulfilling your brand promise. Then listen, thank them for their feedback, and most importantly, follow up with your improvements.
- Show appreciation. Remind your stakeholders of their value regularly through little tokens of appreciation. Offering gift cards, postcards, personalized emails, inexpensive treats, and other marketing materials from your center communicates that your center cares and values the relationship.
Infusing your urgent care operation with the personal touch means simply going the extra mile to show that you care. Your patients, staff, and partners will definitely notice, and eagerly embrace the relationship. And the result is a win-win for everyone: your stakeholders get the care and connection they desire, and in turn they help your center grow and flourish.