Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The opinions expressed here are that of the authors and not UBM / Medical Economics.
With each passing year, life in America seems to grow increasingly fast-paced. This has created an on-demand culture where people simply don’t have the time to wait for services. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly important for healthcare providers to adjust their business models accordingly.
Patients are tired of having to wait for an appointment, to get medical records or to have simple questions answered. Lansing Urgent Care realized this growing trend early on and knew it would soon be critical to meet these new demands to maintain and grow our position in the urgent care space. To do this, we focused on evolving in two primary areas.
Implementing new, innovative technology and providing our patients with digital tools. Today people go online for just about everything, and healthcare is certainly no different. We realized the importance of having a great online presence to make it easy for our patients to learn about us, make an appointment, access their records and results, and have questions answered easily after their visit.
We started by overhauling our website to make sure it contained key features patients were looking for, such as a patient portal that lets users easily log-in to see their healthcare records, view test results, ask questions about their visit, and even see their bill and pay it online. Since we knew a majority of patients visited us on their mobile devices, a mobile-friendly site was of the utmost importance.
In addition, we partnered with DocuTAP, a health IT company that provides EHR, practice management and patient engagement software for urgent care clinics, to offer patients the ability to schedule appointments, check in on-line, and even request extended appointments if needed. This enables patients to see their place in line so they can arrive right before they are to be seen, allowing them to reduce the time they would have spent in the waiting room.
Being mindful of patients’ time by minimizing door-to-door times and improving patient experience. Knowing our patients’ time is valuable, offering an efficient, high-quality visit was mandatory. It was thus important to seek a good balance between quick visit times while ensuring the patient feels heard and cared for.
Borrowing from industry-leading manufacturing environments, we decided to use tools such as Lean 5 S’s (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) to organize employee work spaces and Six Sigma process mapping, a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. Together, these provide employees with critical steps for all for processes and can have a major impact on how much time patients spend from the time they enter the clinic to the time they leave. Anything that can be done to improve employee productivity makes for happier patients and employees, and in turn, improves your practice’s bottom line.
Choosing a high-quality EHR that improves your practice’s efficiency is also key. An EHR that allows for standardized exam templates, patient plans and discharge instructions not only eliminates the need for staff to recreate these items for every patient, it also helps to drive consistency and reduce overall practice risk. Employing these tools to eliminate waste in your processes also results in quicker door-to-door times, while allowing for increased face time with patients – resulting in higher satisfaction ratings.
Practices can’t be complacent if they want to grow. Routinely evaluating patients’ needs in the increasingly on-demand approach to healthcare is critical to success. Bringing technology to the forefront of patient experience and being mindful of their time and experience will result in happier patients and more profitable operations.
Catherine Mathews is owner and CEO of Lansing Urgent Care.