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4 Essentials of Urgent Care Site Selection

The rise of urgent care in the U.S. is one of the key trends that has dominated healthcare news headlines in recent decades. The growth in urgent care clinics also comes with a need for new strategies to successfully navigate the urgent care business model – including insights on urgent care site selection.

Traditional health systems have historically relied on an “if you build it they will come” approach to real estate. Medical services are concentrated in a specific area and patients are expected to travel to that area for treatment.

But the urgent care business model reverses the traditional healthcare real estate paradigm. Rather than building a large medical center in a central location, urgent care providers need to build a network of small clinics that are strategically positioned to reach patients where they are. Selecting the right sites is fundamental to an urgent care provider’s success.

If you are just getting started in urgent care site selection or want to improve your current site selection strategy, make sure you pay attention to these 4 essentials of a great site.

1. Great Urgent Care Sites Have the Right Types of Consumers in the Trade Area

Businesses cannot survive without customers, and urgent care clinics are no exception. Great sites have the right concentrations of the right types of consumers within the trade area.

But how exactly do you define what the “best type of consumer” is for your urgent care practice? One approach is to use demographic information. For example, you may look for sites that are near high concentrations of families with children. Median income is another demographic metric you may consider.

While demographic information is helpful, it doesn’t tell the full story. Ultimately, you need to know which types of consumers are likely to chose urgent care for their healthcare needs. This is measured by lifestyle metrics called psychographics. Combining demographic and psychographic information into a patient profile gives you a clear understanding of who your clinics are trying to reach and allows you to identify where pockets of those types of consumers are concentrated.

Another element that influences whether a site has the right types of consumers in the trade area is payer mix. You need to understand whether the payer mix in the trade area around a potential urgent care location matches your business model. If you cater to Medicare/Medicaid patients but the trade area is primarily composed of privately insured consumers, then the site is likely not a good fit for you. 

2. Great Urgent Care Sites Offer High Impression Frequency

Impression frequency is a term used in marketing to describe the number of times a consumer is exposed to a brand name. To capture distracted consumers’ attention, you need to regularly put your brand name in front of them to be top of mind when they need your type of services.

Many don’t realize that impression frequency is driven by more than advertisements. In fact, one of the most important sources of impression frequency are brick-and-mortar locations.

Since urgent care is a convenience-based brick-and-mortar business, impression frequency is critical to success. Selecting sites that prospective patients will pass regularly during their daily commute or errands helps to ensure that your clinic is the first that comes to mind when they need healthcare services.

Measuring impression frequency is difficult, but there are some proxies you can consider instead:

  • Look for sites with complementary co-tenants. Analyzing your existing location performance can provide insights into whether being located near certain types of businesses helps your business. Perhaps being located in the same shopping center as a grocery store is a strategy that works well for reaching your particular patient base.
  • Consider traffic counts and area draw. The higher the traffic in the area, the higher the impression frequency. Traffic counts are one metric to consider, as is the gross leasable area (GLA)of the center you are considering. In general, the larger the center, the higher the assumed traffic volumes.

3. Great Urgent Care Sites Have the Right Balance of Supply and Demand in the Trade Area

Another fundamental of urgent care site selection is ensuring that the site offers the right balance of supply and demand. An area may have high consumer demand for urgent care services, but if the market is already saturated with other providers, it will be difficult to succeed there.

Demand can be measured through use rate information, which is a summarized and more user-friendly version of raw claims data. Supply can be measured through counts of existing facilities and full-time employees (FTEs) by type.

4. Great Urgent Care Sites Excel at Real Estate Fundamentals

While there are many quantitative factors that drive real estate performance, don’t overlook the qualitative factors. Just as you would interview a job candidate who “looks good on paper,” visit each potential site in person to ensure that it truly is a good fit. Great urgent care sites are easy to access, have sufficient parking or access to mass transit, and have good visibility and signage placement.

Simplify the Urgent Care Site Selection Process

While the list above isn’t comprehensive, it’s easy to see that urgent care site selection involves many factors. Evaluating each of those factors can be time consuming, but you can simplify the process using healthcare analytics.

Rather than manually tracking the individual metrics outlined above, you can combine them into a site selection model. The model allows you to quickly score a potential site to see how it rates in certain key variables – from core consumer density to competition. When combined with your own qualitative site research, a healthcare analytics solution can give you increased confidence in your urgent care site selection process.

Learn more about Buxton’s solutions for urgent care site selection.

Journey Awareness Persona Strategy/Facilities Healthcare