Helping Patients Decide Between the ER, Urgent Care, an After-Hours Clinic or a Doctor’s Office

August 7, 2015 - Health Care - Tiffany Vogel - Senior Copywriter

A high fever in the middle of the night. A possible broken bone. A cut that might need stitches. We’ve all been there, whether for ourselves, our children or a loved one. Whatever the medical situation, it always leads to the same frantic question: “Should I go to the ER, urgent care, after-hours clinic or my doctor’s office?”

It’s important people have the answer to this question before they find themselves in a time of stress and anxiety. If the medical community doesn’t take it upon itself to educate consumers ahead of time about what type of care they should seek, patients can very easily make the wrong choice. That can lead to increased costs, unnecessarily longer wait times (since ERs see the sickest patients first), and ultimately an unfavorable patient experience. And chances are, it happens more often than you think.

A 2013 study by Truven Health Analytics examined insurance claims for over 6.5 million emergency room visits made by commercially insured people under the age of 65. It found that only 29% of patients required immediate attention. Twenty-four percent didn’t require immediate attention, 41% received care that could have been provided in a primary care setting, and 6% received care that would have been preventable or avoidable with proper primary care.

Who. What. Where. When. Why.

It’s up to the medical community to educate consumers before they need care so consumers are prepared to self-select the right care in their time of need. We actually helped one of our clients, ProMedica, do just that.

This particular assignment was to increase awareness of ProMedica AfterHours among women and get them to think of it as an extension of their ProMedica physician that offers a convenient, affordable and accessible solution for non-urgent sick care. But the campaign didn’t just focus on after-hours care. When we took a step back, we realized how important it was to make sure people knew how to choose the right care at the right place for the right cost. To do this we outlined when it was appropriate to go to ProMedica Emergency Centers, ProMedica Emergency Express and Urgent Care Centers, ProMedica AfterHours or a ProMedica physician. Our media buy included local newspapers, direct mail, outdoor and online banners.

ProMedica AfterHours Infographic

How are others in the industry educating consumers on where to go in an emergency or non-emergency? A British campaign by the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland regions of the National Health Service has been teaching patients for years. Check out their website and campaign materials.

Have you been successful helping your healthcare consumers understand when to use the ER, urgent care, after-hours clinic or doctor’s office? Do you need help doing so? If that’s the case, we’d love to work with you.

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