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Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems are widely used in healthcare. They are modern charting tools that improve interoperability, and for large healthcare systems, incorporate into Electronic Health Record (EHR) tools to help maintain a patient’s health history.

In urgent care, EMRs are integrated with practice management (PM) software to not only complete charting, but also manage the door-to-door visit. Clinic workflows depend heavily on how well the system matches the visit types and integrates with other tools like patient engagement and business intelligence.

Ultimately, an urgent care can only be as efficient as their tools allow — especially their EMR/PM system.

4 Reasons Urgent Cares Struggle with Hospital EHRs

Acute EMR systems cannot be modified to drive optimal workflow for urgent care patient visits, which hinder urgent care operations. Here are four reasons why.

  1. They slow you down. Urgent care is all about speed, but hospital EMRs are built to record and store patient information from every specialty and every care setting. These systems slow urgent patient flow, meaning your staff wastes time and your center loses money.

With provider labor being the largest cost of running an urgent care, profitability is tied to how many patients per hour providers can see. Your system should work for your business, not against it.

  1. The demands and expectations of patients are different in urgent care. Patients coming to urgent care, usually with minor illnesses or non-emergency wounds, demand a higher level of customer service than those seeking healthcare in a more traditional setting. Having an urgent care EMR with templates customized for the chief complaints in that setting — cough, sore throat, sinus pain, back pain, or painful urination — makes the process faster. That’s not to say the doctor will overlook ancillary conditions. The EMR should be focused but flexible. Again, speed improves both the patient experience and allows providers to see more patients in a day.
  2. Urgent care practice management software “bakes in” a best practice workflow. Every aspect of the urgent care experience — from pre-registration to vitals, history and physical, ancillary x-ray and lab services, to discharge and billing — is handled within the urgent care system. Realizing there is an 80/20 rule, with a handful of diagnoses making up most cases, you want an urgent care system that enables providers to streamline functionality within the system for the most commonly occurring conditions. Less time charting gives providers more time to interact with more patients.
  3. Urgent care software should have integrated features: online check-in and patient engagement; credit card pre-authorization; radiology and ambulatory report access; submission of data to surveillance agencies for regulatory compliance and Meaningful Use; patient portal; patient education materials; and delivery of documentation. An urgent care EMR includes functionalities for all the most common services offered in the urgent care setting, whereas an enterprise system would have to be further configured for each additional function at significant time and expense.

Urgent Care Software Overview: What do You Need in Your Tech Stack?

This resource page covers high-level functionality and benefits of core tools that urgent cares use to improve the patient experience, solve operational challenges, optimize throughput and revenue, make impactful business decisions faster and more!

Visit this page to see what else may be important to your practice

Staff using urgent care technology

What is an Urgent Care EMR? 6 Distinguishing Features

Okay, so you know you want something that supports your unique patient and practice flow. There are many nuances of software and service providers that separate urgent care software from similar systems. Here are some priorities to consider.

1. Easy-to-use navigation for the urgent care setting

When bulky EMRs become cumbersome for urgent care providers, it takes the urgency out of urgent care. You need software with a documentation system geared toward a typical urgent care visit, minus all the extra clicks and options you’ll find with an all-purpose EMR. Some other important points here:

  • While many EMRs use window-in-window navigation and drop-down lists, a platform for urgent care should be easier to use. Your EMR interface should smoothly interact with PM systems and intuitively guide users through documentation in logical phases.
  • An urgent care solution has urgent care charting templates and intuitive navigation. This provides single-click selections, search queries, and favorites lists that simplify the documentation process — so providers won’t have to duplicate efforts re-entering patient and encounter information.
  • To accommodate urgent care workflow, your EMR should allow various staff to document an encounter in any order they prefer and access the chart simultaneously. You can also choose an EMR that recommends accurate and reliable E/M codes based on provider documentation. This not only speeds charting, but also helps you avoid inaccuracies or incorrect coding that result in rejected claims.

While simplicity saves clinicians and staff time and effort, the right EMR increases employee satisfaction and engagement — a huge advantage in a competitive job market.

2. Training and technical support

Both administrative and clinical staff must be properly trained to get the full range of benefits from your EMR. Ask EMR vendors about their training programs. Do they have trainers on staff to help get clinic personnel up to speed during implementation? And is training included as a part of implementation or an additional cost? What about ongoing training? Whether online or on-site, continuous training ensures your staff stays up to date on software functionality. Here are some training options you should look for:

  • Online training — helps save time when onboarding new personnel, which is especially helpful for urgent care centers with a high percentage of part-time staff, new staff, and temporary personnel.
  • Personalized, role-based training for registration, triage, and billing staff.
  • An EMR partner with its own technical support team — not contracted personnel who may be located anywhere in the world.
  • An implementation and support team who can speak the urgent care language, understands the U.S. healthcare industry, and is committed to your success.
  • Staff to handle after-hours troubleshooting who is equipped with the skills and tools to get you back on track.

3. Patient-focused functionality

An urgent care EMR should have functionality to improve patient satisfaction, and work hand-in-hand with patient engagement solutions. If you haven’t thought

about electronic/online registration and wait time transparency, you should. With these patient-centric tools, patients can complete registration before they arrive at the clinic. Then at the clinic, include a simple check-in kiosk and queue display in the lobby that shows the order of patients. Add to this text-based appointment reminders, notifications about wait time, and secure notifications regarding the availability of lab results — and you not only engage your patients, you also build relationships.

patient focused urgent care software

Software that offers patients the ability to pay online, preauthorize credit card/debit card payments, or setup payment plans can not only improve the patient experience but also decrease collection time.

Urgent cares should look for a PM that includes functionality for pre-authorization of payments. Those who have implemented this into their practice have reported faster collections, reduced delinquent patient accounts, and improved patient satisfaction. Collecting credit card information at registration and storing it to the patient’s account can help make life easier for the patient, and for your billing staff.

Even in an urgent care environment where patients typically follow up with their primary care physician, communication should continue after the visit. Gauge patient satisfaction and encourage positive online reviews with a simple text-based, post-visit patient survey. One simple question about quality of service can send up a flag when a patient is dissatisfied and allow your staff to follow up with timely service recovery. This not only lets a patient know you care but discourages negative online reviews or word of mouth.

Another point of contact might be a web-based patient portal, which allows patients to log in and view private messages, lab reports, appointment details, or other documents from their doctor — all in a secure environment.

4. Individualized focus

Choose an EMR built with your service line(s) in mind. With software designed to work with your typical patient scenarios, there’s no need to modify an EMR to fit your clinic’s workflow — saving you time and frustration. A one-size-fits-all EMR doesn’t really fit urgent care. Larger EMR vendors often focus on servicing hospitals and general practice clients — and don’t make EMRs to fit specialized medicine — nor are they focused on speed of documentation.

5. Partnership

While partnership is not actually a feature, it’s essential to your successful urgent care operation. Many EMR vendors can provide workable software, but not all of them will understand the on-demand healthcare business, share your goals, or provide added support, insight, and flexibility to work with you toward your success. The EMR/PM vendor you choose should listen to your needs and deliver software and services that meets them. They should also understand your revenue cycle management process and provide support and guidance to be sure you’re doing everything you can on your side to keep your clinic in good financial shape.

As you consider different EMR vendors, think about what they offer in addition to software and if they have the flexibility to ensure your EMR works the way you do. And don’t limit your thinking to what you need now but include your aspirations for the future of your business. Can your partner make your growth as painless as possible and adapt as you adapt?

Remember, partnership doesn’t end with EMR implementation. It’s only the beginning of a relationship that grows with time and benefits both parties.

6. Powerful reporting

Urgent care is increasingly competitive. Making smart business decisions is so much easier when you have access to relevant, actionable data — ideally, this is readily available from your EMR/PM partner.

In today’s healthcare environment, we are inundated with data, beginning with the demographic information we collect from patients during registration. We collect more data at every step of the process including the most common complaints, the types of protocols we follow, and time spent per encounter. When pulled together, this data gives us power.

Your EMR should allow you to access and use this essential data. It should provide data in a way that makes sense for your business to help you react quickly, identify trends, and drill down to get specific actionable data that is relevant to your clinic.

With the right reporting tools, you have access to key performance indicators tied to visit volume, door-to-door times, revenue, collections, and patient sentiment — to evaluate where you excel or fall behind.

Your Guide to Fine-tuning Your Urgent Care

Constant improvement is a goal embedded within the core of every urgent care business. See what fine-tuning you can do to improve your efficiency, visibility, and patient experience. Get the eBook to grab:

  • 6 tried and true marketing strategies for urgent care
  • Ways to design a patient-friendly experience
  • 8 ways to streamline your clinic workflows
  • 9 ways to build patient trust and referrals
  • Tips for training your staff

Download the Guide

How to set up Your EMR System and SOPs for Maximum Efficiency and Smooth Adoption

Whether you’re in the process of adopting an EMR or would simply like to refine your existing EMR use, there are universal best practices that can help guide your adoption rate — no matter what EMR you’re using. As an EMR company, we’ve discovered some helpful tips throughout the years. Here are a few good rules of thumb to get the most from your EMR:

1. Define (or redefine) clinical workflow first

Most people start with the EMR itself, but we say start one step before that. Define your clinical workflow first. Then add your desired workflow for each patient scenario into the EMR. It’s the EMR’s job to work for you, not the other way around. Sure, you’ll need to update workflow when you add an EMR, but that doesn’t mean you need to lose efficiency.

On the contrary, an EMR should make you more efficient. You know how you want to practice medicine, so map out your existing workflow first. Focus on defining most common patient cases, then modify for outlying cases. Then ask yourself and your staff, “Are these the steps we need?”

2. Implement workflow steps into the EMR

Now, add your steps into your EMR. If you’re setting up your EMR for the first time, be aware configuration might take some time. But once you have your basic patient visit types, diagnosis lists, and prescription preferences in place, your visits will go more smoothly. If you’re auditing, this is a perfect time to examine procedures or documentation processes that you could cut (see previous step). Of course, choosing a flexible EMR that lets you customize steps is helpful, especially if your clinic has specialty services.

3. Have an ongoing EMR training program

Learning a new EMR can be challenging. And every one of your staff learns differently. As mentioned earlier, make sure your EMR has a complete training program to get staff up to speed learning the different parts of your system.

In addition to having support from your EMR vendor, you should also designate advanced software users to help train staff. Advanced users can receive more in-depth EMR training — then share this knowledge quickly will other staff as questions arise. Having a training program — and advanced software users — is vital to ongoing efficient staff use of your EMR.

4. Set up provider templates in the EMR

While similar to step 2, this step deserves specific call out. Provider templates are the basis for the entire EMR process. Setting up templates in the EMR means you can select each provider’s (or clinic’s) preferences for triage workflow through the chart. If you’re not creating templates, you’re not taking advantage of the EMR’s power of standardizing steps for staff.

You’ll spend more time (and frustration) filling out unique templates for each individual patient visit. Again, this is especially useful if your clinic has specialty services or programs. Stock templates are great to start, but real efficiency gains come from clinic (or provider) specific templates.

5. Define who’s responsible for completing EMR sections

Let’s talk nitty-gritty. Who is going to do what? It helps your triage staff to know exactly what screens they are responsible for filling out in the EMR. Will the nurse do vitals? Will the provider document chief complaints? Will the medical assistant enter the lab results? Remember, to attest for Meaningful Use, a provider is required to fill out certain EMR sections versus a nurse or medical assistant.

6. Create a clear process for completing documentation and locking charts

Nothing slows down billing more than incomplete documentation. To keep your days to bill down, set a process for reviewing and completing charts in the EMR. Require providers to complete their charts before their shift is over. Use reminder alerts when possible. Have your head physician and medical director review charts — and send back to providers if updates or clarification is needed. Have a standard timeline and clear delegation for chart reviews, and stick to it.

Final Checklist: How do I Choose the Right EMR for MY Clinic?

The tips and descriptions above can help you think about the EMR/PM features that matter most to you. When it comes time for the final selection process, this checklist can ensure you come to the table with the right information and input to choose a winning system.

  • Assemble a software review committee composed of users and staff with a variety of perspectives.
  • Using the information on this page, create a prioritized list of features. Ask for input from your review committee to finalize your list. If you currently have an EMR, include pain points you want to solve. This blog also lists some modern EMR/PM features that help you maximize revenue and patient satisfaction>>
  • Ask vendors specific questions about how their software will solve your greatest challenges.
  • Request an expected ROI with real-life examples of similarly sized and situated clinics.
  • Take your time and test each option against the features you need. The perfect EMR doesn’t exist. But there is a platform that will work best for your clinic’s situation.
  • Remember to choose an agile, forward-thinking partner that stays ahead of the trends and is positioned to grow and change with the industry. A good business partner will not only help your urgent care run smoothly but will also be committed to the success of your entire business.

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If you’re ready to talk to EMR/PM vendors, your next step is to explore the built-for-urgent-care system from Experity. Take a look at our solution page, watch the video, and when you’re ready, click the “Get Started” button to request a demo. We’ll tailor it to your specific needs so you can get down to the details that matter most to you. We don’t want a bad fit any more than you do. Let’s find out whether Experity will be the difference for you.

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