One of the phrases that has become ubiquitous during discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery is this: we need to find our “new normal.”
Healthcare organizations are no exception as shifts in consumer behavior observed prior to the pandemic accelerated during the crisis. The healthcare industry is experiencing an evolution in how consumers interact with healthcare providers, which has far-reaching implications for the types of access strategies organizations use.
In part 1 of this blog series, we discussed why establishing a strong understanding of how consumer behavior is changing is the first step in designing a successful access strategy for the future. In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into how you can apply insights on shifting consumer behavior to a crucial component of your access strategy: facilities.
The Role of Facilities in Access Strategy
In the modern era, consumers typically travel to healthcare facilities to receive treatment. With in-person appointments the only option available to most consumers, an organization’s facilities strategy is, in essence, it’s access strategy.
But consumer behavior is changing. Technology has made it possible for consumers to access medical care anytime, anywhere. Healthcare organizations and consumers may have been slow to adopt virtual channels before, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption and placed virtual care firmly in the mix of accepted care delivery channels.
Suddenly, healthcare organizations need to balance two distinct categories of access channels – traditional channels and virtual channels – with their sub-categories (outpatient clinics, retail clinics, etc.).
Revising Your Facilities Strategy to Reflect Changing Consumer Behavior
The facilities strategy you had in the days before the COVID-19 pandemic will likely not be the one that best serves you long term.
In part 1 of the blog series, we talked about defining the consumer profile and visits volume for each of your channels and service lines, then tracking how profiles and visits change over time. Those insights serve as the foundation for decisions in a wide range of areas.
Here’s how that information can inform your facilities strategy as you make decisions for the future.
Reposition Your Facilities
Are your facilities located in the right trade areas to reach your core consumer base? If the primary users of your retail clinics are young professionals, for example, check to see if the trade area where those facilities are located have high concentrations of young professionals living or working in the area. If not, those clinics may represent opportunities to relocate to areas more accessible to your core consumer base.
Identify Network Consolidation Opportunities Based on Virtual Care
As you begin to understand which types of consumers are using virtual care, check to see where there are high concentrations of those types of consumers in your service areas. Examine the facilities you currently operate in trade areas with high concentrations of consumers who fit the virtual care patient profile. Could virtual care serve as a legitimate substitute for some of the service lines offered at those facilities? If yes, this may represent an opportunity to consolidate your facilities network, improve efficiency, and reduce operating costs by shifting those visits to virtual settings.
Identify Service Line Optimization Opportunities
For facilities that offer services easily replicated in a virtual care setting and located in trade areas with high concentrations of consumers who fit the virtual care patient profile, one option is to close the facility and consolidate the network as noted above. Another option is to repurpose the existing facility to offer service lines that cannot be offered through virtual care. Use service line models to score the facility and determine which service lines are the best fit, based on the current supply of providers in the trade area, consumer demand for specific services, and other factors that influence success.
The Bottom Line
The shift from traditional channels to a blend of traditional and virtual channels is one of the most significant developments in healthcare’s modern history. Real estate and strategy teams have an important role to play in positioning their healthcare organizations for success in the future as the way consumers interact with healthcare providers continues to evolve.
Ultimately, facility decisions need to be made through the lens of consumer accessibility. Placing the right types of facilities in the right trade areas will not only provide consumers with greater convenience, but it can also reduce costs and help to grow market share.
Need help repositioning your facilities strategy for the future? Contact us today to learn how our analytics can help.