Until the age of 18 I was seeing same old Doctor Lee from my home town for all of my primary care needs. Once I left for college, I have not seen the same primary care doctor more than twice because I’ve moved to a different neighborhood or city every year and have not been able to commit to a clinic, much less a doctor. Many other young professionals like myself that are moving to new towns and cities for college or work are increasingly becoming reliant on urgent care clinics or retail clinics that provide quick, convenient medical services right in our neighborhoods. A high proportion of twenty- and thirty- somethings do not have a primary care provider as they are transitioning into new environments and places all the time and as consumers of healthcare, they are driving the demand for more “convenient care” that is accessible and affordable.
According to a national online survey of 2,019 individuals spanning all demographic and health segments conducted by Oliver Wymann, consumers today want health providers that combine the best aspects of traditional retail (convenience, access, cost transparency) with the best aspects of traditional care models (quality of care, high trust in the provider).
Innovative health providers are indeed responding to this market demand and are introducing more and more urgent care centers and retail clinics in shopping malls, downtown commercial districts, or wherever consumers are already shopping. This shift in retail health is quickly changing the character of traditional commercial streets as they become more lifestyle-oriented, making health check-ups and doctor visits a part of the day-to-day routine.
What is convenient care?
Convenient care often refers to both urgent care centers and retail clinics. In fact, some of you shoppers may have already come across retail clinics – these are often located within pharmacies like CVS or big box retailers like Walmart and Target. They generally offer limited services for “minor acute conditions with clear clinical guidelines”. Although urgent care centers are slightly more comprehensive in being able to treat patients with higher-acuity conditions and provide simple lab tests and basic x-ray services, both urgent care centers and retail clinics offer walk-in services with extended evening and weekend hours making it convenient for urban dwellers working long hours to still take care of their health after work or on days off.
Overall Trend and Site Selection
The health-care industry has, for awhile, been moving away from centralized campuses to bring services closer to two key patient demographics that are growing in numbers today – the elderly (baby boomers) and the children (offspring of young Millennial families). Convenient care is helping the industry do exactly that and in New York, urgent care centers are exploding in numbers, reportedly growing 26% between 2011 and 2014.
Urgent care is a volume-driven business that requires customer visibility in order to allow customers to familiarize and become comfortable with the business. Consumers need to know where the urgent care clinic is, so that if and when they need you, they are able to immediately direct themselves there. Therefore, there are very specific criteria to be met in the site selection process of such convenient care centers:
Site Selection Criteria
- High population density must be present for the urgent care clinic to capture sufficient volume to breakeven
a. In particular, populations with predominantly younger families and high household incomes. (This is in part due to the high numbers of pediatric patients seen by primary and urgent care practices).
b. Also, hip areas with newer young professionals who haven't yet found their own local medical practitioners
- High traffic areas (in cities, close to transit stations)
- Co-located with family-friendly retail such as pharmacies, banks, grocery stores, day-care centers and restaurants. (Nearby retail and restaurants can increase traffic flow to convenient care centers by being on the same path/ route of day-to-day activities).
- Medium-sized spaces ranging from 2,000- 5,000 SF
- Ground floor (According to Neil Kugelman, co-founder of Urgent-MD family urgent care centers "Being on the ground floor allows the community to know we're there if they need us, 365 days a year, seven days a week.")
- Parking preferably directly in front of stores so that elderly or handicapable patients don’t need to walk far distances from their vehicles
Benefits of retail health on our commercial corridors
If your commercial district is facing high vacancies, convenient care might be your next space filler. Urgent care clinics are proving to be attractive tenants for developers who want to draw people to declining retail facilities because these centers are often financially- sound enterprises, according to Bloomberg.
In addition, convenience care centers are typically open late, seven days a week – which means they’ll be keeping their lights on later and encouraging constant foot traffic throughout the week, leading to more eyes on the street.
Not forgetting least of course the added health benefits to your neighborhood residents. The growth of convenient care on commercial corridors can reduce unnecessary emergency department utilization, expand access to preventive services such as immunizations, supplement primary care through extended evening and weekend hours, and connect patients who lack primary care physicians with permanent sources of care.
Sure, in the past health care providers have not been particularly brand-savvy storefronts, however the industry is quickly learning to use retail spaces to build stronger relationships with their customers and they need your active and vibrant commercial districts and streets to do just that!