Beacon connector technology, in tandem with digital signage,
can provide an effective cure to make urgent care patients more comfortable.
By Sylvain Bellaïche
The urgent care business is transforming patient healthcare from a commodity into a consumer-oriented business. Its growth is being driven by the demand to cut down on the relatively long waits for appointment times that are associated with traditional healthcare providers. At the same time, owners and franchisors of urgent care chains are discovering the importance of differentiating themselves from competitors by integrating cutting-edge technology into their operations – not only in the exam room itself but also in the waiting area.
Already enjoying a reputation for high-quality, easily accessible services, urgent care centers are focusing on how mobile communications can be harnessed to provide an ever-more personalized experience for the patients who walk through their doors and to add value to their time in the waiting area. One effective way to make a patient feel more comfortable there is the deployment of beacon connector technology, often in tandem with digital signage.
On the Rise
The increasing availability of connector technology comes as the number of urgent care centers has increased dramatically in recent years, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. The trend coincides with the emergence of consumerism as a more prominent influence on the healthcare industry. As patients continue to seek convenient, affordable treatment for minor health conditions, the expansion of urgent care is poised to continue.
The Urgent Care Association of America’s 2016 Benchmarking Report tallied 7,357 urgent care centers in the United States, an increase from 2015’s count of 6,707. Corporate entities were found to own 33 percent of urgent care centers, up from 19 percent in 2015. According to the report, centers each reported an average of nearly 12,000 patients in fiscal year 2015, which amounts to an average of three patient care visits per hour.
The industry’s growth is reflected in the fact that in 2015, 73 percent of urgent care center chains either acquired or constructed new locations, and that 27 percent of U.S. patients reported in 2016 that they had visited an urgent care center in the last two years. Further, according to a 2016 survey conducted by National Public Radio and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, the main reasons most patients chose urgent care over other care sites is because they thought wait times would be shorter (22 percent) or the location was more convenient (21 percent).
The deployment of beacon connector technology at urgent care centers can help franchisees bolster their reputations for convenience in multiple ways. For example, beacon connectors can keep urgent care center customers informed about the current wait time to see a doctor without them having to ask the center’s staff. This can eliminate a great deal of frustration in waiting rooms. And, if the wait time is long, the beacons can alert the patient of the location of another nearby urgent care facility in the same chain where the wait time is less.
Patients in the waiting room of an urgent care center can also receive information about the latest recommended vaccinations, as well as other seasonal medical practices such as allergy tips, along with any other type of medical news, right on their smartphones, if they have downloaded an app that permits such messages to be received.
Urgent care facilities can also utilize digital signage in the waiting area to display advertisements or news about the latest medical trends, all while showing other forms of media to keep patients informed and entertained while they wait. For example, on one screen in the waiting area, the patient can view live traffic patterns in the vicinity; the patients can also be shown the weather forecast and a news feed of the facility’s choice, helping to engage the patient while he/she is waiting. (Examples could be the latest sports scores, stock market prices or a cable TV news channel.)
Profile recognition technology now enables digital signage to extract the personal profile of the specific patients in the waiting area. To ensure confidentiality, no medical records or anything of a similar nature would be displayed on the screen; however, the facility could utilize this capability to advertise the ability of flu shots, for example. If a patient walks into the facility and has not yet received the flu shot, the digital sign could pull up the patient’s first name and photograph (if available).
At the same time as the name and photo show up on the smart screen, the patient receives a smartphone notification alert that he/she can open (or dismiss, just like a calendar reminder) with a more comprehensive message, such as “Hi [name], I see you have not yet had your flu shot. You should get it as soon as possible.” In general, the digital signage could be used to communicate any type of personal message that the facility wants to convey without it being too invasive.
How Franchisees Can Benefit
Urgent care center franchisees in search of suitable beacon connectors and digital signage platforms might want to look for a particular set of qualities in the technology. The first is flexibility and agility. If an urgent care center decides to integrate digital signage, it can involve the installation of multiple screens across numerous locations. Organizing media from a single platform is an obvious advantage here.
A second quality is wireless control: A wireless platform provides greater control to make adaptations to the messages or ads being displayed on the various digital screens at remote locations. This includes the ability to change the message being displayed from anywhere. Storing, organizing, scheduling and pushing out all digital signage content from a single platform help make a potential tech headache a smooth process.
There has never been a more exciting time for beacons and digital signage technology in healthcare, and urgent care center franchisees are well placed to enjoy their benefits.
Sylvain Bellaïche is the founder and CEO of Digital Social Retail.