Health centers- prepare for change and competition

In a recent article, June 23rd, The New York Times highlighted many changes the Affordable Care Act may be bringing to community health centers. The article in particular references work currently underway at Louisville, KY community clinics to help improve service, reuse and the overall health of the local population. It is important to note that these community health centers will be facing increased competition, if consumers now with insurance, choose to access retail establishments for their healthcare.

According to this article, as well as research from the Advisory Board and others, consumers are doing just that. Gone are the days where the Walgreens and CVS merely competed with ERs, Urgent Care and Primary Care offices for patients. Health center patients are also attracted to the locations, convenience, and customer service available through these retail establishments. More convenient hours, no appointment, an electronic health record, and transparent “menu” pricing are all expectations that consumers have and the retail centers are delivering.

Scheduling options at the Walgreens Take Care Clinic.

Scheduling options at the Walgreens Take Care Clinic.

In order for health centers to remain viable they will need to evolve. Here are 5 essential elements health centers and clinics should consider:

  • Consider a simple, branded experience across all centers in system
  • Implement EHR and appointment reminder systems
  • Cross promote services and encourage repeat visits
  • Offer convenient appointment options for consumers who may have limited, to no availability during the work day
  • Hire the right people to staff your clinic and train them effectively

For health centers, courting customers might be a change. While it may be a new mindset – this may require significant operational and cultural changes to be competitive in the near future. Start early and be prepared for consumer choice in the emerging health care landscape.

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