For all the planning you do, it’s the patient that’s the central focus of your efforts. It makes sense then to design your urgent care clinic and services around the patient. After all, urgent care is a delivery model based on the idea that patients deserve the proper treatment at the exact time they need it.
Take this patient-centric theory into your entire practice. Here are a few ways to make your physical clinic building and service options more patient centered:
Make registration as fast and painless as possible. Your patient is already under a ton of stress with an unplanned injury or illness. Offer online check-in so your patient can register on the way to your clinic. Consider having a greeter at the door to direct the patient and help fill out paperwork. Provide a queue number so they know what number they are—and how long it will be to see a provider. In-office check-in should take minutes.
Your patient is scared and in pain. A calm, friendly, efficient receptionist is vital to a patient’s overall experience. Speed and assurance need to be portrayed. Be deliberate with the personality types you place in this position. Also, have a more open, non-walled area to speak to the receptionist. Don’t forget name tags for all staff.
Lighting and decorations
Choose a soothing lighting when building your clinic. Try to incorporate natural light with windows, where appropriate. Pick deliberate colors and decoration for relaxation. Keep the lobby area up to date with proper furnishings and equipment. For clinics that treat pediatrics, offer child-friendly distractions.
Seating and privacy
Provide enough seating for approximately three times the number of patients you anticipate. Most patients are accompanied by family or friends. Patients in pain don’t wish to sit in the open; arrange seats that offer privacy. A corner for children also keeps noise at minimum for others. Offer a private (or semi-private) area for registration, so patients can relay private information out of ear-shot of other waiting patients. Make sure you maximize space while keeping a clear path for traffic flow.
Offer convenience for comfort. Plan your clinic to be near by public transport. Offer phones and Wi-Fi directly in the waiting room. Have calming music or televisions turned on appropriately calming channels. Consider having beverage options—a coffee bar, vending machines, or light food available. Keep rooms a comfortable temperature.
Clear interior signage
If your patient has to move rooms or stations for treatment, have clear signage in the exam room about where to go—or escort patients directly to where they need to go. Getting lost in the clinic during treatment causes more unneeded anxiety on top of the present situation. Also have clear signs in hallways for exits, the waiting room, and rest rooms.
Wait for provider
Keep this to a minimum, and have the nurse be clear about how long the provider will be. Nothing is worse than sitting in an exam room, and not knowing when you’ll be seen. Explain who the provider is, offer a bio sheet or other intro information if possible. Give patients a way to write down questions for the provider while waiting.
Calm fears by explaining exam steps as they happen, from taking vitals through the actual exam. Each of your staff can help with this, from your nurse, to x-ray or lab techs, to the provider. Taking away the unknown can be enough to help the patient face reality and know what’s coming. Also, outline EMR documentation steps together with the patient. Comforting words of how you’ve seen and handled similar cases can also help.
Offer immediate discharge for insured patients by collecting co-pays during registration. Be clear if the patient needs to check out at the front desk before leaving. Make it easy for cash patients; be transparent with fees so they are prepared. Consider offering online payment options and payment plans to give patients more ways to pay when your office is closed.
ePrescribing and directions for at home care
Provide at-home care instructions, in either digital or print form, upon discharge. An EMR can offer templates with accurate instructions for care, which providers can modify to their preference. Save time by sending scripts to pharmacies digitally, so the patient can have drugs filled on the way home. Have common meds on hand so the patient doesn’t have an extra stop.
Referral to another physician
Quickly refer patients to another physician for follow-up appointments, therapy, or recovery treatments. Ask if you can schedule a follow-up appointment with another practice for the patient. Also, keep primary care physicians (if the patient has one) in the loop of patient care by forwarding their medical history.
Patient portal and follow-up communications
Many clinics now offer secure, HIPAA-compliant patient portals. Patients can view (and reply to) messages directly from providers. They could also view follow-up instructions, review lab results, and check on prior invoices. Remember to schedule a friendly follow-up phone call as well.
Review and survey options
Give patients the chance to give you feedback to improve your process. Most unhappy patients take this avenue in a public place such as online reviews. Find out how you are doing first, by asking for honest feedback after the patient visit—and giving patients an easy way to complete a survey regarding service and facilities.
Want to make your clinic more patient centered? Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. Make convenience your guide when making decisions. In the end, if you make the patient the focus of your mission, your urgent care will flourish.