Primary care providers play a powerful role in consumers’ healthcare experiences. The long-term relationships that primary care providers develop with their patients can help patients to stay well – improving care outcomes and reducing costs. For health systems, developing a strong primary care network is an important strategy for developing relationships with consumers and introducing them to the rest of the system.
Most consumers recognize the value of a primary care physician. According to a 2019 survey conducted by EBRI and Greenwald & Associates, 82 percent of baby boomers have a primary care physician. Among millennials, 65 percent have a primary care physician. However, these numbers reveal that there is still a significant portion of the population without a primary care provider, particularly among younger consumers.
How can your primary care network attract new patients and better retain existing patients? Marketing plays an obvious and important role, but optimizing the placement of your facilities also contributes to success.
Where you place primary care facilities matters. Offering care in areas that are convenient for your current or prospective patients to visit makes it more likely that they will choose to establish care with you and to continue choosing you over other options when routine healthcare needs arise.
So, how can you ensure that your primary care locations are in the right places? Begin with these data-driven steps.
1. Invest in a Primary Care Site Score Model
Site score models are powerful tools for assessing the performance potential of specific sites. While there are several types of site score models, each type can provide helpful insights when evaluating a current or prospective primary care location. The models typically combine consumer data with data on healthcare demand, healthcare supply, and other factors that influence performance. Forecasting site score models also include cannibalization estimates to provide insights into the extent to which the presence of a primary care clinic impacts performance at a neighboring clinic.
2. Conduct a Primary Care Portfolio Audit
After you’ve invested in a primary care site score model, you or your analytics partner can use the model to conduct a portfolio audit, which may also be referred to as an existing facilities assessment. This generally involves using the model to score your existing locations and comparing the scores to actual performance. Keep in mind that the type of site score model you purchase will impact how this assessment should be interpreted, but if you spot major gaps between potential performance and actual performance, then those are the locations you want to investigate further. Your investigation will help you to decide the appropriate action plan for each flagged location, which might involve leaving it in place, relocating, or consolidating.
3. Conduct a Primary Care Potential Analysis for Your Current Markets
A potential analysis uses a site score model to score every possible combination of sites to determine 1) how many locations a market can support and 2) where those locations should be placed to optimize network-level performance. You can conduct the potential analysis around existing facilities to identify incremental growth opportunities (a process that’s sometimes called an infill analysis), or you can conduct it without reference to existing facilities (a process that’s sometimes called a whitespace analysis).
To really understand what the optimal market layout would be, consider conducting this exercise as a whitespace analysis and then comparing the results to your current network. Is the ideal market layout dramatically different from your current position in the market? If so, which facilities would be affected? Combining those insights with the results of your portfolio audit and other facility-level data can help you to determine which facilities to prioritize for relocations when the time is right.
The Bottom Line
Whether you operate an independent physician’s group or lead primary care within a health system, choosing the right locations for your primary care facilities matters. By taking the data-driven steps outlined above, you can develop a long-term roadmap for optimizing your market, reaching more prospective patients, and retaining more existing patients.
Need help optimizing your primary care network? Buxton can help. We offer a full suite of site selection models and related services to help you make the right location decisions. Explore our healthcare solutions.