Care on the Go

How Large Health Systems Can Meet the Unique Needs of the Urgent Care Customer Experience

March 9, 2020 | Susan Iovenitti

Promptu Urgent Care on the GoTBG is expert at designing high value digital experiences for urgent care and we understand that the pressures on the urgent care digital experience differ from the common use cases of larger health systems. Frequently we are called on to bring the urgent care side of a health system closer to the consumer expectations that are set by national players and freestanding urgent care companies—expectations which dovetail with the immediateness, convenience, and patient needs that are so central to that type of business.  Patient interactions with urgent care facilities are valuable—as feeders for larger health systems—and a positive experience in an urgent care scenario can in turn attract new patients to the specialists, treatments, and tests across your broader system.

If your organization has urgent or ambulatory care facilities, you are probably aware that patient needs and expectations at these facilities differ distinctly from those that patients have when interacting with other providers and locations in your system. These facilities are more retail-oriented and transactional than hospitals and health systems. By opening urgent care facilities, you have entered into a distinctly different model of interaction with consumers—and one that is rapidly evolving, presenting a demand for faster digital cultural change than other parts of your system may be able to meet.

Market Disruption

In recent years, the traditional primary care paradigm in healthcare has been interrupted by universally available urgent care. Urgent care facilities offer a quick, convenient, and reliable way to receive care when an unexpected need arises. Compared to primary care practices, urgent care facilities tend to offer simpler processes for making appointments and seeing care providers, more convenient locations, easier access to parking, a one stop shop for labs, x-rays, and physician services, and a greater availability of same day appointments. 

Patients often choose urgent care centers for many reasons. Sometimes it’s because they lack a primary care provider, lack health insurance coverage, or have an urgent need that requires immediate attention. But in many cases, patients are choosing urgent care because these facilities offer greater convenience than traditional practices. Urgent care patients are often under a time constraint to get back to the demands of their everyday lives. Knowing all of this, it’s important that urgent or ambulatory care digital touchpoints are finely attuned to the needs of patients and caretakers in urgent situations.

The Importance of Mobile

Users in urgent care scenarios are often viewing sites on the go. A well designed mobile-first experience can greatly simplify logistics for patients. The mobile site for Patient First features locations-focused calls to action that enable the primary goal for most users: getting to a nearby location for a same-day visit.

A mobile-first site or experience dedicated to your urgent care operations is essential. For marketing and tracking purposes, we prefer to build these experiences as a sub-domain or primary node off of the parent health system site. And, if you’re a larger healthcare organization, having a clear way to find and access urgent care offerings from the main organization’s mobile site is also strategically critical. In the case of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, TBG designed easy to see emergency and urgent care icons near the header of the mobile site to keep these top-of-mind no matter where the user enters or accesses the site.

Another critical factor in the mobile experience for urgent care is the use of Geo-IP location services to help orient the user to urgent care locations nearest to them. Once a user clicks on the urgent care link on the Nationwide Children’s Hospital mobile site, the site uses Geo-IP tracking to suggest the nearest location for the user, creating personalized convenience. This approach allows a caretaker to easily find locations and quickly get care for a child in need.

Fast, Easy & Relevant 

Hyper-convenience is key for urgent care patients. Information about locations, hours of operation, insurance, and pricing should all be easily accessible. Caregivers and patients heading to an ambulatory or urgent care facility also appreciate visible wait times as well as options to reserve a spot and schedule a visit online.

In the case of Promptu Immediate Care, TBG designed a heading that always shows the nearest location and their hours of operation. 

Promptu’s site also boasts highly visible buttons asking patients to check in online from the locations search results, allowing patients to streamline their visit experience by checking in before they arrive.

Similarly, Choice One Urgent Care has the check in online form available on each location landing page. An easy to read list of insurance plans and self pay pricing is also accessible on the site.

Knowing When to Go

To avoid confusion on the patient’s end, many health systems and urgent care sites are working to differentiate between visits to an urgent care center versus an emergency room through content strategically located on their site. Content that explains when to visit an emergency room or urgent care facility lends to overall success in care and experience within the health system as a whole.

Health system sites that provide clear linking to urgent and ambulatory care sites directly from the health system site navigation aids in user differentiation and understanding of the relationship that the urgent or ambulatory care facility has within the broader health system. It is also beneficial to include content supporting the ambulatory or urgent care site on highly trafficked in-bound pages on the site—like the homepage or locations landing page.

Including—but clearly differentiating—urgent and ambulatory care facilities on your location pages can help the user who has visited the health system website in search of a nearby facility. Bonus points to the location pages that also surface the option for the user to see wait times and schedule their visit.

Keep it on the Surface

Deeply nesting urgent and ambulatory content on the health system website presents risk of the patient not finding the facility or information that they need in a timely fashion. It’s much better for the urgent or ambulatory care site to sit higher in the information architecture structure, or even at a separate subdomain. However, if you plan to personalize experiences between the main health system and urgent or ambulatory care site, we recommend against building the ambulatory or urgent care content on a separate domain altogether, because there may be limitations to tracking and data aggregation. 

In the case of UMMS, TBG made sure that the Urgent Care offerings are available from the top-level “Health Services” navigation menu.

For Lancaster General Hospital (LGH, part of the Penn Medicine system), TBG designed easy to see calls to action linking to appointment scheduling and urgent care. This approach strategically aligns the convenience that urgent care offers with the broader health system, thus making it more likely that patients who appreciate the convenience of the LGH urgent care offerings will return as patients to the larger health system.

It’s in the Details

Designing and developing the interactions and systems that accomplish all of this is not easy, but understanding the common scenarios is foundational. When done right, the digital experience of urgent care facilities can make it easier for a patient to treat their condition and get back to their everyday lives as quickly and conveniently as possible. As models for increasing consumerism, urgent care scenarios apply to more and more areas in a health system’s activity. Our strategy, design and build practice takes a much wider range of these practices into account than we can cover in this article, but if you would like to talk to us about how these matters play out in your health system, please feel free to contact us.

About the Author

Susan Iovenitti
Susan Iovenitti

I'm TBG's Director of Digital Strategy & User Experience. When I'm not at work, you'll find me in yoga class, attending a concert, or dining at a new restaurant in Baltimore.

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