By Dr. Benjamin Barlow, chief medical officer, Experity.
As we evaluate the healthcare landscape following the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the urgent care (UC) industry, facilities have undergone significant transformation. Patient behaviors and economic factors have converged to reshape the way people perceive healthcare.
For urgent care, access to the use of reliable, accurate data is critical to inform intelligent decision-making and clinic success throughout dynamic market conditions and changing consumer preferences.
Part of this adaption centers around redefining expectations and benchmarks to measure success by leveraging data-driven insights to ensure that UC clinics continue meeting the evolving needs of their patient population.
Changing Patient Behaviors
In 2019, urgent care clinics were a familiar and reliable part of the healthcare ecosystem. Patients sought their services for minor injuries, illnesses, and a range of non-life-threatening conditions. During the pandemic, patients visited for COVID-related issues like testing, vaccinations, and respiratory care, but were hesitant to visit medical facilities for non-COVID conditions in fear of contracting diseases.
Now, UC clinics are vastly different as patient sentiment has again changed. This transformation can be attributed to shifts in patient behavior and the economic impact of healthcare decisions. Additionally, the end of the public health emergency (PHE) has stripped millions of Americans of their Medicaid coverage, further amplifying the issue of healthcare access, and adding to the uncertainty surrounding patient healthcare coverage.
According to a 2022 Gallup report, 38% of Americans delayed seeking medical care due to cost implications, marking a 12% increase from the previous year. This reflects the growing concerns surrounding healthcare affordability, having a profound impact on when and where patients seek medical attention. Rising deductibles, changes in insurance coverage, and the economic conditions following the pandemic have led individuals to reconsider their healthcare choices, often delaying care until conditions worsen and requiring costly emergency room (ER) visits.
The worsening of these cases is often preventable if patients seek care when they first notice symptoms, and UCs can help fill this gap as an alternative to an ER visit. With robust education through marketing initiatives, the value of a practice and the services it can provide throughout the community will ensure patients have the information needed to make educated decisions about their healthcare.