Whether an urgent care should be open minor holidays, major holidays or 365 days a year depends on consumer expectations and retail adjacency. This edition of Just Checking In describes how to make a business case for expanding holiday hours.
Happy Memorial Day! I am Alan Ayers and I am just checking in. Today I am going to be talking to you about holiday hours. So, should your center be open today, Memorial Day… 4th of July… etc. In urgent care we see three general approaches to operating hours. Given that consumers really view urgent care as meaning access and convenience a number of multi-unit operators have said, “We are going to be open 365 days a year.” So if you look at MD Now in South Florida, Physicians Immediate Care in the Chicago area or Patient First on the East Coast… they really have built their entire brand around being open 365 days a year. “We have a doctor on site whenever you need us.” From a branding prospective that’s great. That’s like the 24/7 Walmart Supercenter: available whenever consumers have an urgent care need. Ideally an urgent care center should be open 365 days a year.
So when considering hours I would urge you to consider the retail around your centers. So if you are located around a retail strip I would ask what holidays are those retailers open? Odds are on all the minor holidays, so your Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, etc, your chain supermarkets—Kroger, Safeway—your big box stores—the Walmart, Target—as well as your corner drug stores—your CVS and Walgreens… odds are they are going to be open on all of those holidays. If a consumer views urgent care as retail, you are sitting in a retail setting and all of those other retailers are open, consumers expectations naturally will be that you will be open on those days. So what we have seen is, apart from centers that are open 365 days a year, the more common model is that we have centers that are open maybe 362 (or) 360 days a year. Open on minor holidays, but closed on the major holidays, which would be Thanksgiving, Christmas, maybe the 4th of July, maybe Easter, where there is no consumer expectation that would be open and it would be very difficult to staff the centers on those days anyway.
And then after that we have centers that are closed on holidays. And I generally consider that a negative. If you think about a holiday like Memorial Day, people are out and active, they are going to golf tournaments, they are playing soccer in the park, they are going to the beach, they are having picnics. They are engaged in activities that are more likely to lead to injury or illness or an urgent care need. So I would think if anything demand for consumers would be greater on a day like Memorial Day. Consumers just need to know that you are open. If you are a center that is closed on holidays. Closed on minor holidays as well as major holidays, I would really encourage you to look at expanding your hours. A way to do that is to build a business case for holiday hours. You want to look at the variable cost of being open. If you think about your profit and loss statement there are certain fixed costs that you are going to pay regardless: your rent, much of your utilities. Certain utilities will cost you whether you are open on a holiday or not. So the only added expense of whether you are open on a holiday really is the cost of labor. That could be a physician, a medical assistant and a radiology technician, who with the MA is cross trained at the front desk. The incremental labor costs per hour are not that significant. With the starting point of understanding your labor cost of being open on the holidays then you can divide your net revenue, your average revenue per visit to determine how many visits you would need to break even on the holiday and then you can build a business case for being open on that day.
If you are going to be open on a holiday you need to advertise the fact. So it is kind of like if a tree falls in the forest and no one here’s it… if you are open on a holiday and no one knows does it really matter. Are you going to get patient volume? I wouldn’t really count that holiday advertising towards the incremental cost of being open because your center has to advertise anyway. So if you are buying a weekly ad in your community shopper, if you are doing advertising on the internet, you just shift your advertising over a 2-3 week period. “Hey, we are open on Thanksgiving. We are here when you need us”—to raise awareness before the fact. Often times we will see centers put signs, banners just to raise awareness of existing patients and drive-by traffic that they are open on this day. That can only help drive volume on the holiday, but it also brands the center so if somebody sees an ad, (Oh, the center is open on Thanksgiving. I don’t need the center on Thanksgiving but a couple of months later maybe on December 15th I remember seeing the ad). So advertising for holidays benefits the center overall and really wouldn’t be considered being part of the cost of being open over the holiday.
So, again, your center ideally should be open 365 days a year. If that’s not feasible you should at least be open on the minor holidays and if you are currently open on the holidays I would encourage this approach of looking at a one-day profit and loss statement to determine whether you should expand your hours to help better serve patients on days like today. So that’s all I have for today. Again this is Alan Ayers, just checking in. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at www.practicevelocity.com. Thanks again.