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Whether visit volume is high or low, getting more patients through the door is a priority. Seeing just one more patient a day brings in 30 more patients a month. That means if you make $120/visit, a single clinic can earn an extra $3,600 monthly. If you have five clinics, you’re looking at adding over $200,000 a year.

Increasing patient volume is two separate challenges, though — fitting more people in when it’s busy, and attracting more people when it isn’t. We’re going to give you some ideas to help with both. Let’s begin with the first: getting more patients through the door by improving your patient flow.

Patient Flow

In urgent care, patient flow describes the patient’s movement through the clinic from the first touchpoint through the last. This includes any resources, internal systems, and treatment involved throughout the entire patient journey.

Improving patient flow

To increase patient flow in the clinic, you want to focus on efficiency and consistency. If you’re not sure where to start, answer these questions:

  • Where are my clinical bottlenecks? Look at what’s causing high wait times, what slows the flow of getting patients into the exam room, and what’s preventing the provider and medical assistant from spending time with the patient
  • Are my clinical processes foolproof? This has a lot to do with defining processes. Does everyone have a clear idea on how to handle every situation the same way?
  • Is my team working at full capacity (smarter, not harder)? Determine whether you’re providing tools they need to be successful and if they’re easy to use

From here, you’re looking at two general buckets of ideas that can help you improve flow: automated tools and refining procedures.

Automated Tools Create a Patient Flow Management System

For urgent care, a patient flow management system is a combination of patient engagement tools and an integrated EMR/PM built for urgent care efficiency. The former helps you slash the time it takes to get a patient seen, eliminate duplicative entry, and submit more accurate claims.

The latter reduces manual efforts for providers, letting them spend less time documenting so they can see patients more quickly. Here are some of the features for each that help you see more patients.

Patient engagement

  • Online scheduling — Allow patients to reserve and view their spot in line to reduce time spent in the waiting room. Give staff better insight on how to orchestrate their responsibilities. Both of these help reduce the time it takes for the patient to get seen.
  • Online preregistration — Minimize data input errors and cut down registration time by having patients do the work for you. They can fill out their registration information and upload necessary documents like ID and insurance cards. According to Experity data, preregistration saves your staff an average of four minutes per patient. While that does not seem like much alone, if you see 60 patients a day, that’s 240 extra minutes — or about five more patients a day.
  • Smart queuing — Similar to making a reservation, getting in a virtual line tremendously helps with wait psychology, which helps reduce appointment abandonment. It also gives your staff better visibility into patient volume so they can plan more efficiently to hasten throughput.

EMR/PM designed specifically for urgent care

  • Intuitive flow — Document more easily and save time with a system designed for high-velocity care
  • Prepopulated options tailored to urgent care — Reduce charting time with fields that prompt urgent-care specific symptoms, reason for visit, and more, which can help you cut your average door-to-door time to around 45 minutes
  • Auto-populated preregistration information from your PE tool — Eliminate duplicative entry with integrated systems, reducing manual entry and risk of error for you
  • Credit card on file at the account level — Keep patient credit cards on file for future use to further reduce registration time (no need to have patient present a card every single time and have staff preauthorize)

If you don’t currently use a solution that offers these features, they are very easy ways to reduce the amount of work for staff and accelerate throughput. While they are an investment, once implemented, the benefits are immediate.

Refining Procedures

Beyond your automated systems, you can help staff improve patient flow with other resources that make them more efficient:

  • Provide a checklist that front desk staff can keep handy to make sure they’ve captured all the correct information before the patient is seen, helping them confidently move through the process more quickly. We have one here
  • Have front office staff ask reason for visit — You can have needed supplies ready in the exam room when the patient is taken back, and you can divert those patients whose needs are beyond your scope of care
  • Invest in staff improvement, especially if you already have a robust operating system in place. Not only can you train them to be even better at their jobs, they’ll work harder for you knowing you’re investing in their professional future

How to get More Patients

Now that you know how to handle high patient volume, you want to maintain steady revenue by keeping that volume from dipping too low in off seasons.  To do that, you want to not only attract more new patients to your clinic, but also get patients you’ve seen to come back. Some of the best approaches here lie in smart marketing, reputation management, and expanding your services.

Marketing Ideas for Clinics

You’ve probably covered your marketing basics, so now it’s time to think a bit more creatively about how to get visibility and be persuasive.  See if anything here is a new idea for you.

Digital marketing

Here are a few ways you can tap into digital and online resources to capture attention.

Get new patients in the door with irresistible special offers — Run a huge promotion that serves your community at a price they can’t refuse. Advertise it on social media and/or Google, and build an email campaign for existing patients. (For example, Vital Urgent Care in Newport Beach, California ran a promotion in paid ads offering TB tests for $5 with a successful outcome.)

Other email campaigns — You probably got a lot of new patients through COVID-19 testing and vaccinating. Email them about other services you provide. Use their demographic information to segment your audience and tell them about the specific services that may be of interest to them. Remember, about a third of patients don’t have primary care providers, especially younger patients. How can you fill that gap?

Quality online content — Rank higher in online searches and build trust through blogs that help answer common questions pertaining to services. For example, explain the signs, symptoms, and treatment of pink eye. Just remember to write at about a ninth-grade level so your average reader can understand. And don’t sell, inform.

Grassroots marketing

Even in a digital world, it’s valuable to stand out in your community by doing some outreach. A few ways to do that:

  • Join your local chamber of commerce to build connections and bring awareness to your clinic. You may also get backlinks to your website, which are very valuable
  • Connect with local schools and universities to offer onsite screenings, tests, and vaccinations as permitted in your state
  • Work with apartments buildings and housing associations to explore opportunities like sponsorship (newsletters,) advertising (flyers,) and welcome kits
  • Check if any churches or religious organizations have immunization needs for mission or volunteer trips

Get more marketing ideas in our Urgent Care Marketing 101 guide.

Attract and Retain Through Reputation Management

When you succeed at acquiring new patients, you don’t just want them to want to come back. You want them to tell the community that they should see you, too. And the way they do that is through online reviews.

We talk a lot about how to get online reviews. But a tip we’ve yet to share is how to incentivize staff to help get better reviews.

If you’re prompting patients to leave reviews, you want that feedback to be as positive as possible. Your staff is responsible for a large part of the overall patient experience. iCare Urgent Care Centers offer staff a quarterly bonus when their clinic’s Google rating is 4.7 or higher. With money on the line (and feeling appreciated,) staff go the extra mile to ensure they deliver the best patient experience they can.

Attract New and Existing Patients by Expanding Services

Expansion is another topic we frequently discuss (like in this blog,) so we want to help you generate new ideas. OccMed is already widely adapted because it’s an easy way to expand. But if you’re only offering some OccMed services, make sure you aren’t missing any opportunities specific to your community. Regardless, remember we said that a lot of younger patients don’t have primary care physicians. Think about what you could offer to appeal to them.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm new ways to expand.

  • Do my services appeal to all populations in my community?
  • Are there any underserved or rural areas near me that need urgent care?
  • What is my growth/succession plan?
  • Would I be open to being acquired or merging with another chain?

As you start to answer these, consider a couple of tips to help you dive in more deeply.

  1. Do market research. Understand who your competition is, and who your market is. What is your competition missing? What do you do better than they do? Are you often turning people away for a specific service you don’t provide, but could?
  2. Look closely at who is in your area. Even if you don’t offer OccMed, you can build a growth plan based on businesses, industries, and institutions in your area, like manufacturing, construction, school, farming, elder care, etc.

Overall, your expansion will be most successful when you consider the needs of your community and how you differ from your competitors.

Learn More

Searching for a Simpler EMR Solution? Experity’s EMR is built for Urgent Care, offering robust capabilities while remaining easy to use. With best-in-class onboarding and training, switching to Experity’s EMR has never been easier. Contact us to learn more.

You can also download our free eBook, How to Increase Patient Volume: Managing the Highs and Lows, for more in-depth ideas.


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