Leveraging Mobile Apps in the Urgent Care Sector

Patient engagement technology should be top of mind in a social media world

The recent announcement of corporate giants, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase forming an independent healthcare company to address the needs of their U.S. employees has promised “technology solutions” would be the initial focus of the new company. Healthcaredive.com is speculating that “the new company is also likely to look at capitalizing on a growing trend in healthcare — moving to more retail locations. That, of course, is Amazon’s sweet spot.” Urgent cares, take notice.

As mobile health (mHealth) continues to open up lines of communication between providers and patients, the healthcare industry is seeing improved outcomes, enhanced patient experience and a more streamlined process.

While urgent care centers have yet to fully embrace healthcare technology, one area gaining ground is in mobile app development. Apps directing patients to the nearest ER or urgent care center aren’t new. But, innovative apps for on-demand physician services are growing, as is the use of mobile technology for making appointments, follow-up treatment and preventative care. Apps can help track patient history and report it back to providers. Patient portals, web check-in and self-check-in kiosks in urgent cares are part of the routine today — and these digital options will continue to advance.

With urgent care one of the fastest-growing sectors in healthcare, it’s surprising that many do not offer apps that go beyond locating the nearest center, nor engage healthcare consumers. MD Now Urgent Care, a large provider in South Florida, launched its MD Now mobile app in 2016 to provide patients with fast and convenient digital access to its 33 South Florida locations. The app goes a step further, allowing patients to check in, get clinic specifics and make online payments.

Enabling real-time location tracking for devices, patients and clinicians should be part of any app development. Connected mobile technology allows for real-time location systems (RTLS), which can help urgent cares keep track of and in touch with patients. OrthoNOW Orthopedic Urgent Care Center’s app, On My Way Now®, does just that.

The app took the honors at the 2017 Sports Medicine Technology Awards by Orthopedics This Week. The first and only franchised orthopedic/sports medicine walk-in care center of its kind, the app allows patients to notify an OrthoNOW Urgent Care Center they are en route, the reason they are coming and what time they are expected to arrive. Patients can send messages to the front desk, as well as a custom injury alert and photos to doctors and specialists prior to arrival. Users can create multiple patient profiles — a feature designed to help parents and coaches build a system for rapid decision making and notification at the time of injury, when seconds count.

After treatment, patients receive post-treatment information on their phone, and get urgent health notifications. The app also offers a portal for telemedicine connection, laying the foundation for future innovative ways to access expert orthopedic healthcare. Beyond engaging with the medical team, OrthoNOW also leverages convenience-oriented technology, partnering with Uber to facilitate travel to and from visits.

Urgent cares across the country need to begin implementing their own mobile apps and look to creating partnerships with transportation companies like Uber and Lyft to not only build patient engagement and the brand, but to become more patient-focused. After all, the competition is just heating up.

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