SUMMARY: One definitive trend to emerge from the pandemic is that more people are becoming healthcare consumers. They want healthcare to be easier to access and don’t want to wait for necessary medical tests. This could lead to an evolution in urgent care centers, but it will require disruptive thinking.
Urgent care centers aren’t new, but they are evolving to become “total care” in some areas. In addition to immediate access to a physician, they offer on-site labs to analyze blood, MRI and CAT scan machines, pharmacies, and a full range of OTC products. One urgent care center in Tampa even has its online healthcare records site.
Patients have wanted this for a long time. It’s frustrating to wait for an MRI and wait again for another appointment with a physician to go over the results. In my opinion, these total urgent care centers will be springing up throughout the US and could even be branded under retailers like Wal*Mart or Target.
Where does pharma fit in?
The most important touchpoint for pharma continues to be product websites, but there is no indication that pharma understands this. Content is often stale and rarely updated, and online health seekers rely more on social media misinformation.
What I see more of is electronic billboards in HCP offices. While some contain information that’s irrelevant to most patients, others have information that can be valuable, such as ads for supplements and moisturizing creams.
One urgent care center has an area just for prescription drug brochures, and I was surprised to see so many people reading them. They were categorized by health condition and contained both OTC and Rx information.
People want changes to healthcare.
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, a majority of Americans indicated they want significant changes or complete reforms to much of how the US operates. Just over three-fourths of respondents said there needs to be substantial reform to the country’s healthcare systems.
With healthcare becoming more about numbers and less about people, the country is ready for changes in healthcare. Pharma has been caught “paying for politicians” to fight drug pricing Medicare negotiations. While most patients do believe in the efficacy of prescription drugs, JAMA recently reported, “results suggest that the estimated use of new cancer drugs without documented clinical benefit has substantially increased over the past decade, with major cost implications.”
So why aren’t more “one-stop” urgent health care centers appearing? They are costly to capitalize for starters, their operating costs can be high, and there are questions about whether people would go to a Wal*Mart branded healthcare center. Patients want to be seen as people with individual needs and wants, not just numbers, and therein lies the key challenge.