Last minute school physical. Strep test. Late night fever. Waking up with a red, itchy eye.
Urgent care clinics have grown to play an important role in our medical ecosystem. As reported by Forbes, recent strategic partnership and M&A activity among major healthcare companies demonstrate the corporate interest the urgent care industry.
Partly to “blame”, an increase in insured patients is stressing the the physician-patient ratio. As primary care and pediatrician wait times increase, there is a growing need for urgent care clinics.
Urgent care clinics are navigating this rapidly competitive, growing and changing healthcare industry. In the medical realm, it can be odd to think of other caregivers as competition, but at their core, urgent care clinics, physician practices, and hospitals are businesses. Businesses that must remain financially viable to provide care to patients.
As any business sector grows and sees success, investors will want to join in to capture their piece of the “pie”. We have seen the urgent care growth of 6% from 2016 to 2017 as reported by Urgent Care Association of America. Higher rates of expansion have been reported for larger urgent care providers. That’s quite a bit of increased competition!
1. Cultivating a Patient-Centric Environment
Beyond location or good luck, what are you doing to ensure patients return to YOUR urgent care clinic?
Tactics used by leading urgent care clinics:
- Patient-centric services, such as telehealth
- Patient engagement via digital marketing
- Patient loyalty and reputation management
Thriving urgent care clinics ensure they are responding to the needs of the community. This can include anticipating last-minute back to school and flu immunizations as well as introducing technologies that enable patients to be seen in even more convenient ways, such as telehealth. An integrated patient-centered mobile app helps engage your patients after they have left the clinic – encouraging repeat visits and allowing open communication.
2. Utilizing Modern EHR Technology
Our technology-centric culture has spurred exponential growth of healthcare technology creation and utilization. Due to the nature of urgent care clinics’ competitive and fast-paced environment, the need for the latest cloud-based EHR that harnesses available speeds and technologies is essential. Urgent care specific workflows and templates create efficiencies in an environment that is short on time.
Equally important is the ability for the urgent care clinic to access updated patient records from local practice and hospitals. Knowing what medicines a patient is taking is an important aspect of making accurate diagnosis. EHRs with a master patient index or Health System Patient Index (HSPI) can aid urgent care clinics in downloading and uploading patient information – saving time and contributing to the culture of patient-centric care.
3. Innovating with Telehealth Services
Immediate, non-emergent care is the core of urgent care. Offering telehealth services is a natural progression to immediate, yet convenient care. In 2016, the Urgent Care Association’s benchmark survey reported 8% of respondents offering telemedicine care. We anticipate this adoption to rise, as urgent care clinics look to:
- Expand customer geographic draw
- Maximize patient visits per physician
- Increase follow-up rate
- Maintain competitive advantage
For optimal workflows and efficient use of resources, urgent care clinics looking into this option should choose EHR vendors with built-in telehealth capabilities. The alternative leads to double work and data entry between two systems. Why take a step forward to only take two back? Integrated telehealth allows providers to open visits directly from a patient chart, document real-time during the visit, and easily schedule follow-ups if necessary.
4. Connecting & Automating for Efficiency
A solid urgent care-focused EHR is going to lighten your administrative burden with a host of integrated solutions and automation tools. Integrating with labs and facilities, connecting via direct messaging, and leveraging a patient portal are all critical. Automating consult and referral letters, patient education, follow-up reminders, and online bill pay will streamline your operations and shorten days in A/R.
5. Employing High ROI Billing Solutions (RCM)
In the urgent care setting, maximizing revenue per patient is critical. But, this is easier said than done. When selecting an RCM provider, you need certified coders that understand the specialty and will work with your clinical and administrative staff. Additionally, you need the right tools and workflows to collect patient payments and drive shorter AR cycles. And if you are implementing a telehealth solution, you need staff that understand how to capture maximum returns for those visits.