During the Covid pandemic one of the most noticeable changes in the US healthcare industry was the explosion in the use of telehealth. In the early days of the pandemic remote consultations increased by around 80x, compared to the level we saw in 2019. McKinsey estimates that this figure has reduced as the emergency subsided, but still settled at around 38x pre-pandemic levels as a new normal.
However, now that in-person appointments and walk-ins are possible again I think that one of the most interesting post-pandemic trends is the explosion in demand for urgent care centers. These are on-demand outlets that look similar to the clinics you might see in retail malls, but they are equipped to handle more serious issues such as fractures or wounds.
Urgent care centers offer an important service that can be the first step on a patient journey. Naturally they will refer patients on to other care centers, or even an ER, if required. They are becoming essential.
Immediately before the pandemic there were almost 10,000 urgent care centers in the US. Growth in the number of centers from 2018 to 2019 was 9.6%. Although there would have been a natural pause in growth throughout the most serious phase of the pandemic, it is likely that growth in 2023 will surpass these numbers.
Patients are seeking more affordable options that are convenient and have shorter wait times. Research by the Urgent Care Association indicates that 97% of patients are treated inside one hour at urgent care centers and 92% were treated inside 30 minutes.
A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that average patient care costs were around $168 in urgent care centers – the same conditions treated in the ER cost about 10 times this amount. For this reason many insurers no longer cover patient services in the ER unless the situation can truly be called an emergency. If you just had a heart attack then get straight into the nearest ER, but if you broke a finger pitching to your kids then the ER doesn’t offer anyone much value today.
For all these reasons of value and convenience, the entire urgent care sector is now one of the fastest growing sectors in American healthcare. What’s also interesting to note is that most urgent care centers are including telehealth options so there is a merger taking place of the fastest healthcare trends from both during and after the pandemic.
The quality of patient interactions will be an important part of the urgent care center growth story. As more centers are opening competition will develop, especially in cities and areas with a large population. Urgent care centers will not be able to succeed just by offering better value than the ER, they also need to deliver a helpful and seamless patient experience.
This is where I believe that an expert adviser and partner such as Quantanite can help. We have experience designing customer interactions across the world and have specific healthcare knowledge that could be especially valuable for fast-growing healthcare groups that want to focus on their core healthcare activities.
Healthcare Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is growing rapidly. The global market is estimated by some analysts to be $468.5 billion by 2026. Almost half of all this activity will take place inside the US alone.
Healthcare groups managing urgent care centers need a partner that understands the need to be agile. Our client list is filled with highly innovative startups from many different sectors – you will recognize many of the brands. It’s this ability to scale up and manage rapid growth that makes Quantanite the ideal partner for healthcare groups planning how to ramp up their urgent care centers.