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Could Amazon run urgent care?

Who might Amazon acquire next? Numerous media outlets have speculated on the e-commerce giant’s potential takeover targets. This had me wondering: What would Amazon do differently if they took over the Urgent Care industry?

Here are three primary principles of success from Amazon that you could easily adapt to your practice.

Principle 1: Treat patients as customers

The health care industry has a semantics problem, one easily solved by abolishing just one word: patient. The word “patient,” derived from a Latin, originally meant “one who suffers.” That sounds more like a medical observation than the person who hires you to render a service.

Urgent care has experienced explosive growth over the past five years and for good reason. Patients are consumers! As consumers, they reward vendors that best deliver on their demands. Urgent care centers are an attractive option to many consumers because of the convenience and pricing transparency many offer.  

Start calling and treating your patients what they really are — your customer. Once you call them “customer,” you can follow the Amazon way:

“We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.”

Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon

Which brings me to the next principle.

Principle 2: Obsess over customers, not competitors

This is an often-repeated Jeff Bezos quote and a core philosophy at Amazon. If you adopt it as yours, revenues will smile upon you as much as patients.

Instead of spending time and resources on competitive market intelligence, focus on the patient experience. Do you have a patient journey flowchart? We are all patients, so think like one. How would your patients answer these questions:

  • How did you know you needed urgent care?
  • How did you choose one?
  • Did you walk in or schedule online?
  • How long was your wait?
  • Did you feel comfortable during your visit?
  • Did the staff treat you like royalty?

Chart the ideal process from scheduling through post-appointment follow up. Now, compare this to your current patient journey. Many urgent care centers could benefit from an approach akin to Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering.  

If your team is not reworking your patient workflows, you might be seeing a lot fewer patients than you can handle. Have you considered leveraging current technology? Good digital scheduling and automated intake easily increases your daily capacity by 20 percent.

Principle 3: Redesign staff roles to focus on patients not process

It’s time to free your staff to focus on the human touch of medicine. Staring at computers and shuffling papers doesn’t help patients feel better.

Amazon believes that automating repetitive tasks frees up staff to focus on more rewarding activities. Automating the front office with online scheduling and digital patient intake saves 6-10 minutes of staff time per patient. Ask yourself: What could your staff do for patients in that time?

Patient satisfaction is your greatest loyalty and marketing program. The next time that patient has a co-worker who thinks they're coming down with something, your practice will likely be named the ultimate remedy.   

Patient-centric healthcare starts with acknowledging that we practice medicine to serve a consumer. The more we can share Amazon’s zeal for starting with the consumer’s/patient’s need and work backwards, the better we can deliver meaningful outcomes.