According to Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin (2010), “what have changed in business in recent decades is the amazing proliferation of product choices in just about every category” (2). Authors exemplified this statement by referring to the choice of providers in the U.S. healthcare industry. If earlier, nothing but services by your doctor, your hospital, Medicare and Blue Cross was on offer, modern healthcare industry us characterized by a strong rivalry of multiple providers. So, under the circumstances of modern highly competitive market, companies need to offer products and services that have the potential to stand out the competition.
Most successful positioning strategies are believed to be based on offering lots of products, which are positioned differently. Differentiation is one of most important strategies used to make consumers distinguish particular service provider from all other provides, who operate at the same market. In other words, differentiation refers to being able to offer something, which your competitors cannot offer. In this assignment we would like to address positioning and differentiation strategies of such the U.S. urgent care providers as Doctors Express (franchised model of urgent care) and Kootenai Urgent Care.
Basic information about the U.S. urgent care industry and chosen suppliers
Nowadays urgent care centers represents one of the most rapidly developing segments of the U.S. healthcare system. Viability of urgent care centers is called forth mostly by increasing waiting times with emergency and primary care providers. Growth of the segment is promoted by the fact that in 2014 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will take effect, significantly expanding insurance coverage for a great number of people. According to the industry research by IBISWorld Inc. (2012), “The Urgent Care Centers industry remains highly fragmented, with an estimated 9,428 urgent care centers in the United States and the majority operating just one facility. Although there are several companies with a national presence, the largest operators only control a small share”(2-3). As the demand is quite high, lots of new industry operators tend to appear. Existing operators tend to expand both the range of provided services and the territory of their operation.
Doctor’s Express is based on two contractually bonded companies. They are the investor and the doctor. The investor owns the franchise company, while the doctor performs duties of center’s medical director. Such a model establishes a fruitful partnership, when the doctor treats patients and a businessman deals with all related organizational issues. The franchiser helps franchisees open ever new centers in different areas of the U.S. and provides assistance to start-ups. Such assistance lies in ensuring collective purchases, choosing the site and dealing with real estate issues etc. Franchise opportunities resulted in the fact that Doctor’s Express centers can be found all over the U.S., even in rural areas. The company offers such services as urgent care (treatment for injuries and illnesses), on-site digital X-ray services, occupation healthcare services for employees and physician’s consultations on-site. Doctors are said to effectively deal with acute illnesses, traumas, travel medicine issues (e.g., vaccinations), sports injuries and open wounds. Furthermore, the urgent care centers have modern laboratories, which provide results really fast.
Kootenai urgent care center is a private urgent care enterprise. The company is not characterized by a significant locations choice as only three locations are available. The center established partnership with North Idaho Family Physicians to complement services offered by primary healthcare providers. The center provides different types of services to patients of all ages, who suffer from non life-threatening injuries and illnesses without an appointment. Such a policy allows the center to help patients, who cannot access their physicians.
On the face of it Kootenai urgent care center and Doctors Express offer quite similar services. Nonetheless, to get a more comprehensive vision, companies’ positioning and differentiation strategies should be considered.
Doctor’s Express and differentiation strategies
According to Doctor’s Express official website (2013), its vision is “There will be Doctors Express urgent care centers meeting community needs in every metropolitan market in the United States. Doctors Express will become a prolific and trusted brand name synonymous with exceptional medical care. We will offer life changing franchise opportunities to business people and physicians across the country”. So, centers position themselves as the ones, which serve at different locations and provide healthcare of exceptional quality.
What is the difference between Doctor’s Express and thousands of other urgent care centers, whose services are also advertized as convenient, time-saving, quality and affordable ones. Peculiarities of Doctor’s Express lie in providing wider range of services than primary health providers usually do; emphasizing timeliness of all the services (e.g., laboratory services) and having wide choice of locations.
Furthermore, what is most important, Doctor’s Express is the only urgent care enterprise in the USA based on franchise model. It means that its services are of interest not only for potential patients, but future franchisees. When concluding a contract with Doctor’s Xpress, franchisees get a variety of benefits.
Firstly, they can rely on business model, which has already proven its successfulness and, therefore, reduce risks. Secondly, the franchisee is relatively economically and legally independent from the franchiser. What is more important, the franchisee is provided with necessary assistance and is granted an access towards the knowledge base of the franchiser. Particularly franchise model lets the company open ever new centers and encompass the wide range of locations. Franchise model ensures brilliant interconnection between start-up assistance services and core medical services, supplied by the company, as franchisees’ activities support further development of the net of centers, which share Doctor’s Express mission, vision and core values.
Kootenai urgent care center’s positioning and differentiation strategies
Analysis of Kootenai urgent care centers’ mission and vision lets us conclude that main peculiarities of healthcare services by Kootenai urgent care lie in their timeliness, effectiveness and efficiency. Company’s values include “quality, integrity, responsibility and stewardship”. (Kootenai urgent care center official website, 2013) Unfortunately, as no other data are available on “Why choose use” page of Kootenai urgent care official website, let us concentrate on analysis of declared mission and values. It is worth mentioning that no particular differentiation strategy seems to underlie company’s mission, as most urgent care centers positions themselves, as enterprises, whose services are timely (helping patients to get help without previous appointment), effective and efficient.
The difference can be seen in the way the center presents its values. Firstly, an emphasis is made on operating in an honest, transparent manner and sticking to ethical values. Formulation of responsibility value seems to be a bit inconsistent with its name, as this value is not about being liable for all possible negative consequences of centers’ performance (e.g., torts) as it stems from the name, but about engaged people providing quality services. So, “responsibility” value does not seem to perform the function, which it may be awaited to perform by patients. The last, but not the least value of the company – stewardship – is the one, which really makes the company different from other providers, as this value speaks for company’s dedication to efficient usage of resources for patients, employees and other stakeholders.
Comparative analysis of Doctor’s Express and Kootenai urgent care center
As both organizations operate within one industry, let us proceed with the brief comparative analysis of their positioning and differentiation strategies. In their positioning both companies emphasize such features of their services as timeliness, availability without previous appointment, high quality, effectiveness and efficiency. As urgent care centers are generally referred to as the institutions, which complement primary health care system’s functioning, all aforementioned values seem to be natural. Doctor’s Express’ important feature lies in the fact that this urgent care center offers a wider range of services than primary healthcare institutions usually offer. Important strength of Doctor’s Express is that urgent care centers of this network are situated all over the USA and can be easily accessed. Important features of Kootenai urgent care center can be found in its values, as this enterprise emphasizes such important aspects of providing quality healthcare as adhering to the principles of integrity (including ethical conduct) and economy of resources.
Most important differentiation feature can be traced in franchise model of Doctor’s Express organization, as particularly this kind of building contractual relationships with other representatives of business allows the franchiser develop functional network of urgent care centers and ensure provision of medical services really on-site. Furthermore, such model feature makes Doctor’s Express a provider of already two different types of services: medical ones and those, related to launching a start-up in urgent care industry. In addition, being known for it is model feature, Doctor’s Express definitely gets more attention both from businessmen and those, seeking to get quality medical care or use extra services on-site.
Doctor’s Express official website (2013). Retrieved 07 March 2013 from http://www.doctorsexpress.com/
IBIS World (2012). Urgent care centers in the US: market research report. Retrieved 07 March 2013 from http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/urgent-care-centers.html?partnerid=prweb
Kootenai urgent care center official website (2013). Retrieved 07 March 2013 from http://www.kootenaiurgentcare.com/
Trout, J.and Rivkin, S.(2010). Differentiate or die: surviving in our era of killing competition. New Jersey, NJ: John Wiley&Sons
Williams, T.(2010) Positioning for professionals: how professional knowledge firms can differentiate their way to success. New Jersey, NJ: John Wiley&Sons