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How do urgent cares build strong patient relationships in a fast-paced environment?
Empathy is one way. Although urgent care’s bread and butter is speed, efficiency, and a streamlined visit process, that doesn’t mean care and concern can’t be interjected. Empathy is especially important as patients are more likely to choose a doctor because of a personal experience. In fact, a positive personal experience is 2 ½ times more important to patients than to consumers in other industries1. We know it’s natural for a clinic running at top-speed to view a case as simply another patient, the standard, the norm.
But we want you to imagine if you were on the other side of the situation. What if you were the one suddenly injured or ill? How would you want to be treated? You as a clinic may see ten to twenty patients a day with the same ailment or injury, but it likely is the very first time the patient has ever gone through the experience.
Here are a few ways to put yourself in your patients’ shoes and add empathy to your patients’ experience:
General Best Practice
1. Become a Practice Patient – Test your clinic. Audit workflow and staff reactions by running through a spontaneous patient scenario.
2. Role Model Care – Lead by example. Care is contagious and multiplies through others. Show consistent daily concern for patients and employees.
3. Put Staff Bios on Your Website – Unlike PCPs, urgent care staff are generally unknown. Putting pictures, bios, or videos on your website help patients prepare for who they’ll meet.
During a Patient Visit
4. Outline What to Expect – Not knowing is scary. Clearly outline the visit step-by-step and the follow-up process so patients know what’s coming.
5. Take Time to Listen – Some patients just need to talk. Lending your ear and giving direct eye contact builds patient-doctor trust.
6. Relate Personal Experiences – Show vulnerability. Nothing connects faster than saying that you know how it feels.
7. Communicate Actions – Explain exam steps, show how you document information with the technology you use, and how you arrived at the diagnosis and action plan.
After the Patient Visit
8. Send a Patient Satisfaction Survey – Good word-of-mouth is vital in your community. Ask for feedback on how you’re doing.
9. Follow-up with a Letter or Phone Call – The patient experience doesn’t end with the visit. Assign someone to check up on progress.
How empathetic is your urgent care clinic? We know the above ideas are just scratching the surface of meeting the needs of the patient experience. Providing a consistent quality of patient treatment and care at your urgent clinic requires a long-term commitment by every single staff member—from providers to front-desk personnel.
You never know when a certain statement or action makes the difference to a patient giving your urgent care clinic a good or bad review. Accidents and urgent care situations are unpredictable for your patients. But showing empathy is a consistent standard of care that will make your clinic the top choice for patients in your community—both those who directly seek you out and those who are referred to you.
How do you add empathy to your urgent care clinic process? Tell us!
1 Cheung-Larivee, Karen. (2012, July 26). “What patients want in a hospital.” Message posted to http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/what-patients-want-hospital/2012-07-26.