There are approximately 9,000 urgent care centers in the United States, providing care to 160+ million patients every year. Knowing what’s important to patients, beyond simply feeling better, of course, separates the “good” urgent care facilities from the truly successful ones—successful in patient satisfaction and in generating revenue.
Why Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) is Important for Urgent Care
Urgent care centers help to fill the gap between primary care providers and hospitals, and help keep patients who don’t necessarily need emergency care out of the ED. More and more patients are turning to urgent care—many, especially millennials, identify urgent care as their only source of healthcare. These patients want one-stop services. They don’t want to be told that they’ll need to go elsewhere for additional testing, which makes on-site lab services a must for these patients.
“But what about the cost?!” many urgent care centers decry. According to the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine, an onsite lab can generate revenue for urgent care if it’s operated properly. While we won’t get into the nitty gritty here (check out the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine for great tips), the organization recommends that urgent care centers remember that a lab is a business and should be run like one—consider it a business within a business.
Give the People What They Want!
In 2019, we’re all about convenience. Grocery stores will deliver groceries to your door. Amazon will have that household essential to you within hours. When that customer becomes a patient, their expectations are no different. A survey of primary care patients found that a whopping 77% of patients prefer lab services on-site. In fact, getting labs and X-rays done on-site is #2 of the top 10 preferred primary care clinic attributes, and 67% of patients would drive up to 20 minutes to a clinic that offers lab and imaging services over a closer clinic that does not.
It’s also important to be upfront about cost when offering lab services to patients. Medical bills for even one visit can burden many people, and 92% of patients would rather visit another clinic for labs rather than remain in the dark until they receive a bill in the mail weeks later.
How POCT Benefits the Provider
We know that patients prefer on-site lab services, but how does point-of-care testing benefit an urgent care center? In fact, the perks beyond patient satisfaction are numerous:
- Patient treatment can begin immediately and/or a referral is made more quickly.
- Staff does not spend as much time contacting patients with test results.
- There may be benefits with insurance companies that recognize the perks of on-stop services (patients avoid multiple trips to the doctor).
- An onsite lab gives the urgent care center control over specimens, thus almost entirely reducing the chances of a lost sample.
- The same amount of time spent making a lab referral and all that comes with that could have been used to run the test in-house, generating your own revenue.
Additionally, there are more specific instances where POCT at urgent care sites benefits both the patient and the provider. An expediated diagnosis during critical times such as flu season means patients are in and out of the medical facility more quickly and are diagnosed more accurately, leading to less over-prescribing of medications and, when necessary, appropriate prescribing of anti-virals.
Urgent care centers with POCT can also help to address the opioid crisis. Patients with addiction often present at urgent care, which makes them prime sites for screening, applying brief interventions, and referral for treatment (SBIRT).
Growth is Impossible Without Risk
Ultimately, the leading argument against POCT remains the potential cost versus the reward. Making operational changes always feels risky, but the arguments for adding on-site lab services are incontrovertible. POCT enables faster diagnosis and decision-making, faster and better treatment and monitoring, and operational decision making and resource utilization. It frees up staff time and resources, and positively impacts patient care and patient satisfaction. Ultimately, knowing that an urgent care center offers on-site lab services will bring more feet through the door!