How Has the Pandemic Changed How Patients Frequent Urgent Care Clinics?

How Has the Pandemic Changed How Patients Frequent Urgent Care Clinics?

By Todd Walls, Chief Innovations Officer

The pandemic has altered many aspects of our lives from how we eat, work, and play. We have felt the emotional, professional, and personal impact of COVID-19 as we adapt to the “new normal.” Industries nationwide have had to shift their way of thinking and altered how they manage day-to-day logistics and personnel. 

The healthcare industry is no exception. 

Urgent care clinics have gone to great lengths to ensure safety and efficiency. The check-in process has been revolutionized by thermal cameras for fever detection. Some clinics have upped telemedicine services and introduced care options like mobile services and virtual appointments

With these changes come questions about how consumers interact with brick and mortar urgent care clinics. How far are consumers traveling? On what days do they make visits? Has the time of day for visits changed? What trends are emerging?

We wanted to see if and by how much consumer behavior has changed relative to their interaction with urgent care physical locations since the pandemic has set in. To do so, we used vast amounts of mobile and psychographic data to conduct a custom analysis to answer research questions. Our findings suggest that the pandemic has indeed shifted consumers’ behavior regarding urgent care centers in quantifiable ways.


To identify and quantify changes in consumer behavior at urgent care locations, we conducted a comparative analysis of monitored mobile devices visiting urgent care centers between the pre-pandemic baseline period of June, July, and August of 2019 and mobile device visits during the pandemic period of June, July, and August of 2020.  

With data obtained through the use of de-identified and aggregated location analytics data, we examined changes in count of visits, the size of trade areas, time of day, and day of week to gain insight on the consumer profiles of patients. 

Here are our research questions and results:

Count of Visits

Q1: Has there been an impact on the number of visits to urgent care centers due to the pandemic?   

A1: Overall, there has been a fourteen (-14%) percent decrease in mobile device visits to urgent care centers from the pre-pandemic baseline period to the pandemic study period.

Trade Area Size

Q2: Has drive time or the distance consumers travel to urgent care centers from home changed because of the pandemic?  

A2: There has been no statistically significant changes to the drive time or to the distance people are willing to drive from their homes to an urgent care center. The drive time for an average urgent care center remains about 15 minutes.

Time of Day

Q3: Has the time of day people visit an urgent care center changed since the pandemic?

A3: There has been a shift in visit volume by day from the pre-pandemic period to the pandemic study period. Morning and lunch visits have increased while evening and overnight visits have dropped significantly.

Day of Week

Q4: Have visits shifted by day of week due to the pandemic?  

A4: The most significant positive shift in visits by day occurs on Fridays. Patient visits have decreased the most on Saturday and Sunday.

Patient Profile

Q5: Have the types of consumers vising urgent care centers changed during the pandemic?

A5: The types of consumers visiting urgent care centers has remained largely the same from 2019 to 2020 with a few key differences. Two of the three largest groups of urgent care center visitors, based on consumer segmentation, remained the same year over year. The third largest group of consumers shifted from multi-generational households in 2019 to young couples in 2020. In general, consumers visiting urgent care centers during the study period were slightly less affluent, less educated, and younger than consumers observed during the pre-pandemic study period.


According to our study, the pandemic has shifted consumers’ behavior regarding urgent care centers. Physical visits to urgent care centers remain below pre-pandemic benchmarks. The pandemic has impacted time of day and day of week trends, which could impact staffing needs. Patient profiles have been slightly impacted, which could influence payer mix as well as urgent care marketing tactics going forward.  

Urgent care clinics are an important way for healthcare organizations to reach consumers. As competition rises, it is wise to pay attention to trends in urgent care performance because of their potential impact on the financial health and success of the organization. If urgent care is an important part of your business, consider monitoring trends in how consumers interact with your facilities so you can adjust your operational and marketing tactics appropriately.

To do this, our Mobilytics technology is an essential tool to help you analyze mobile foot traffic data within any geographical area. Custom reports give you detailed views of visitors who come and go down to the lifestyles and interests of their household. With this tool you can create, analyze, and visualize mobile datasets for any place and see how results change over time.

To explore how Buxton’s mobile device analytics can help you, check out our Mobilytics overview to learn more.