Many practitioners wonder how important is a web presence for urgent care.

Mark Britton, CEO of AVVO, said: “If you don’t have a meaningful web presence, you don’t exist.”

Is it really true for urgent care centers?  Note: he is not speaking about simply having a website, he is talking about a presence in social media?

Of course it is hyperbole, but there is real truth in this statement. For millions of Americans the phone book and the yellow pages are anachronisms, similar to the horse and buggy. In many communities, people search for their healthcare services on the Internet.

If your urgent care is not on social media, you are practically invisible on the Internet to people under 30. If you want to argue with the “invisible” word, that’s fine. Let’s say instead, that you are missing out on a great opportunity to interact and attract this population.

Of course, some argue that social media is just a fad that will come and go like the hula hoop. That’s fine but the fad is here. Others argue that they would rather go with traditional advertising in newspapers and radio. Go ahead. But traditional advertising is very expensive and every year it offers less effective results.

What if someone had come up to you when you first opened your urgent care and offered to give you a product that would allow you to not just advertise, but to fully engage and interact with thousands of people in your community? Would you not have paid over $10,000 for the product?  It is called social media; it is available now; and it is FREE.

So how should you respond?  You don’t need to do everything at once.  It probably makes sense to just start with a single option and go from there.

  • Facebook: Get a Facebook page and interact with people and businesses in your community. Let you community know that you care.  Get active and stay active. Check out these examples of urgent care centers that are using Facebook effectively: Acute Kids (over 4,000 “likes” as of today), NextCare, Health Now, and Urgent Care Niagara.  Remember, Facebook is not just another webpage for your business.  Facebook is a place where you can interact with your community and your patients.
  • Twitter: I admit only a few urgent cares get it on Twitter, but the ones that are using it are daily reminding in front of hundreds of patients that their urgent care centers are there to serve them. See Doctors Express PDX, Irvine Urgent Care, Urgent Care Manhattan, and Mission Urgent Care.
  • Blog: Adding a blog to your website is a great way to keep your site fresh and interesting to visitors.  Your blog is not likely to be the most interesting and provocative healthcare website on the Internet, so that should not be your goal.  Instead, find issues in your community related to disasters, safety, parenting, immunizations, infectious disease outbreaks, etc. that have a local angle and are truly interesting to your specific community.  This will allow you to put a personal and personable face on your urgent care center. FastMed‘s blog does this well. Sonny Sagar of Downtown Urgent Care in St. Louis dares to be interesting without always being local.  However, very few urgent care blogs are worth reading, and beware of the dead blog–a blog that hasn’t been updated for months or years.

Your posts will be dated, and a website that keeps a stale Facebook, Twitter, or blog page online will simply look like the business does not pay attention to details.  Worse people may assume that the folks at the urgent care simply don’t care.

For another perspective on social media in medicine, listen to Dr. Mike Sevilla discuss how to use social media for physicians at AAFP Convention in Orlando.

But if you get involved and engage your patients and your community, social media can be a very effective way to serve your community and grow your urgent care.