The rise of retail clinics, urgent care centers, and mega-mergers between insurers and big box stores spells trouble for medical practices who are unable to adapt to a changing marketplace.
From tourism to transportation, the digital economy has indiscriminately disrupted major industries. It’s not surprising, then, that the healthcare landscape should feel the brunt of shifting consumer behavior and emerging technology. While major insurers, pharmaceutical giants, and chains such as CVS and Walgreens have the strategic resources to weather the storm, medical practices will have to evolve if they hope to thrive.
In “The Disappearing Doctor: How Mega-Mergers Are Changing the Business of Medical Care,” the New York Times explores how retail clinics and urgent care centers conveniently located in strip malls — and operated by aggressively expanding insurance companies such as UnitedHealth Group — are outpacing private practices across the country. In fact, office visit to doctors decreased by nearly 20 percent per industry research.
While this may be cause for concern for any physician, it’s especially topical considering the number of mega-mergers happening throughout the healthcare industry. The proposed CVS merger with Aetna and the possible partnership between Walmart and Humana hint at a future for medical professionals dominated by corporations at the expense of smaller practices.
For physicians looking to maintain their competitive edge during uncertain times, there are options. By optimizing your digital presence, putting patients first, and leveraging sophisticated and cost-effective marketing tactics, it’s possible for medical practices to stake their claim in a volatile market.
1. Optimize Your Digital Presence
One out of every twenty Google searches is health-related. That means that medical practices that lack a professional, easily navigable website are likely losing out on potential patients. To revamp your online infrastructure, make sure that your site and social media accounts are as easily navigable as possible, and double check the accuracy of information on Google My Business. You should also audit your content on a regular basis to guarantee that you’re not promising services or offerings that are no longer available and, vice versa, that you’re comprehensive about treatments that you specialize in.
Additionally, invest in making your site mobile-friendly. Consider enabling Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, an offering from Google that can make your site load faster — and avoid the risk of losing patients who are having a difficult time navigating your site.
2. Put Patients First
As much as patients trust primary care physicians, they’re increasingly opting to go to retail clinics and urgent care centers out of convenience. In order to compete with this medical migration, practices need to prioritize the patient experience.
Consider reaching out to patients with a survey — either in your office, on social media, or via email — asking them about how you can improve your care. Would they come more often and recommend you to friends and family if you had different hours? Are there any digital health offerings they expect you to have by now that you haven’t yet incorporated into your practice? If patients feel like their care is a conversation rather than a transaction or a lecture, they’re more likely to stick with you in the future.
3. Leverage Sophisticated Marketing Tactics
Some patients may be relying on retail clinics and urgent care centers because they haven’t been given the right information about traditional medical practices in their area. By investing in digital marketing, you’ll be empowered to make your case to internet users who may be highly persuadable.
For example, Facebook makes it easy to reach out to users based on demographic qualities that you can choose from. You can also incorporate any pre-existing contacts you have onto the social network and let Facebook’s algorithm reach out to potential patients with similar profiles as your current ones.
Whether your marketing relies on paid ads or organic traffic from search engines, investing here can help your practice compete with the mega-mergers that promise to upend the healthcare landscape.