Location, Location, Location: The Importance of Site Selection in Urgent Care

Posted by Jim Alcott on Sep 22, 2015 3:37:00 PM
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Acquiring new patients - whether it's for urgent care, specialized physicians clinics, freestanding emergency departments, etc. - requires targeted marketing and site selection tactics that eliminate the waste associated with mass media and more traditional site strategies.

One crucial component of a successful targeting strategy is defining the appropriate geography. Locational convenience is a critical factor in terms of the patients you’ll be successful in acquiring.

Too many businesses define the geography for marketing or site selection as a handful of zip codes — both those they currently serve as well as those they think they should be serving. But zip codes are often large and unusually shaped. There’s simply no reason to believe the boundaries of a handful of zip codes have anything to do with the boundaries of an effective trade area. 

It is a minor improvement to think in terms of a radius around your address (e.g., a five-mile radius), but radii that are based on straight-line distance have very little to do with actual locational convenience. They ignore natural and man-made boundaries, traffic patterns, and other important factors that affect consumer behavior.

To be successful, you must utilize the following approaches relative to geography:


Proximity is not a function of straight-line distance “as the crow flies.” People have to use roads that are rarely a straight line, and convenience is better expressed by the time it takes to reach your site than by the miles traveled.


Convenience is at the heart of many business models, particularly in urgent and emergency care. Clinics will be most successful where they have competitive advantage in regards to locational convenience. Consider the map below. The green dots represent specific households where the clinic has an advantage over competitors in terms of drive time (i.e., locational convenience). Note that targeting those households represents a different geography than those represented by a five-mile radius. 

Patient Behavior 

One of the best ways to determine the geography you serve best is to look at where your existing patients come from. When we work with healthcare clients, our data scientists develop a series of PMAs (primary market areas) based on clients’ distribution of patients. We work to create distinct trade areas for each office location. They will vary in size and shape — reflecting the specific geographic and traffic characteristics of each market. Most importantly they will define the areas clients should target, and they’ll rank-order responsiveness as well.


Of course, we don't recommend our clients target every household within the final geography. Our advice is to focus on those households with the highest propensity to be a valuable patient for their practice. In both the cases of where to market and who to market to, we offer solutions to maximize effectiveness and ROI by eliminating waste and targeting prospective patients with whom clients have the greatest chance of success.

Let us know if you'd like to learn more about how a data scientist can help with more precise site selection and audience targeting.

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Topics: Targeting, Measurement, Healthcare