Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So Tell Me, How Do You Market a $500 Band-Aid in a Hospital Urgent Care Center?

A story on hospital urgent care centers the other day in the Sun Sentinel, Orlando, Florida caught my eye. In a nut-shell, some hospital and system owned urgent care centers charge emergency room prices. When I started looking around the country, the same story can be repeated in community after community. This is just not an isolated one-time event.

What don't they get?

In a consumer-driven healthcare market, pricing matters. And charging $500 for a 15-minute visit that required a Band-Aid is the perfect example of why there is such an uproar by government, employers, consumers and health plans regarding healthcare cost. It also points out why Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart and entrepreneurs are driving the expansion of retail healthcare and outperforming the more traditional healthcare providers.

I get it. Hospitals and health systems need to expand and see the urgent care market as a means of revenue generation for combating falling volumes and declining reimbursement. Urgent care centers will be a part of any ACO strategy as well. But there are alternatives existing that makes the use of hospital-based or owned services at the prices charged, and in some cases, the quality choice of last resort.

This may indicate a lack of understanding of the basic market forces now sweeping the country as healthcare transforms from a provider-dominated " build it and they will come mentality" to a healthcare consumer-dominated market. Could it be in these cases, the age old resistance to change that hospitals and other healthcare providers exhibit from time-to-time?

Entrepreneurial individuals and Venture Capitalists are looking at this type of example nationwide and are chomping at the bit to put their own centers up and compete head-to-head against the hospitals and health systems.

The marketing keys to a successful urgent care center is location, service and price. Urgent care centers are just that urgent care, not emergency life or death care. The consumer usually walks in for minor treatment. If you want a successful urgent care center than provide the services at the price that healthcare consumers will buy. Not the ER charges that you think you can obtain by gouging consumers.

Fast, convenient, affordable. That's the marketing. That's the message. Or should be at least. Keep it simple and convenient.

I feel for that marketing department, I mean, how do you market an urgent care center that charges ER price? Besides having to handle the PR fall-out and loss of credibility to the healthcare consumer, you don't.

You can continue the conversation with me on:

Michael Krivich is a senior healthcare marketing executive and internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger read daily in over 36 countries around the world. A Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives as well as a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association, he can be reached at or 815-293-1471. Areas of expertise include: brand management; strategic marketing; sales and marketing integration; physician marketing; product launch; start-up launch and revenue growth; tactical market planning; customer experience management; rebuilding and revitalizing marketing operations; media relations; and service line revitalizations. Mike is Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni.

1 comment:

medicalcorner said...

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