Introduction

Improving your urgent care is a continuous goal, whether bettering processes, training staff, or adding services for patients. Pinpointing ways to streamline your clinic’s workflow is a good way to ensure constant improvement—especially as new healthcare changes take effect. Meaningful Use Stage 2 and ICD-10 are two large changes that will affect how you document patient visits. While you’re looking at accommodating these changes in your workflow, why not also look at your entire urgent care workflow process?

Idea 1

Do Workflow Audits

Only by observing current workflow can you begin to make it better. Document and assess the most common patient visit types in your clinic. Figure out where you stand first before making any changes.

Remember to involve all departments with audits as well. Armed with evidence, you can more accurately apply observation-based, beneficial changes to workflow steps.

Idea 2

Examine Personal Roles

Everyone in the clinic has a role to play—from the front desk staff to providers. Like a well-directed play on stage, each role needs to be defined and filled by a star for success. Combining or separating roles, creating up-to-date job descriptions, and conducting regular personnel assessments are all ways to make sure you have the right people in the right place.

Idea 3

Offer Training Opportunities

There’s always something new to learn, whether with changes in practice techniques or EMR/PM training. Offer training opportunities so your staff can continuously improve. (And we’re not just talking about cross training, which is also important.) Provide online and off-site opportunities for staff to discuss ideas, learn skills, and listen to others.

With MU Stage 2 and ICD-10, hands-on training will be what makes your transition to each of these areas a success. (Check out AHIMA ICD-10 Training.)

Idea 4

Consider Schedule Updates

Re-examine your service hours and test adding or removing hours to see what’s the most profitable for you. Consider having a floating personnel schedule if you don’t already, so if volume increases, you have back up staff (either on-call or from another clinic location).

Look at your urgent care’s trends last year for a guide for scheduling and hiring for next year.

Idea 5

Cut Unneeded Steps

You’re probably thinking “We’ve cut everything we can.” While you may have a refined workflow, there’s always a way to cut more. Be ruthless. Look at every single step. Could online check-in cut the front desk paper work? Are you using paper in any step that your EHR has options for? Can your patients pay online to reduce patient phone calls (and collect more)?

Idea 6

Make Necessary Steps Smoother

Now that every step in your workflow has passed the necessary test, it’s time to look at how to make the remaining steps smoother. Can hand-offs between nurses and providers be better? If a procedure is done, can documentation be done quicker? Are lab and x-ray results imported directly and automatically into your chart? Have you refined your EHR’s templates and discharge plans?

Idea 7

Consider Schedule Updates

Occ med is predictable, so make these visits quick. Having employer info, forms, and visit instructions (protocols) in your EHR system—and not filling out necessary paper work by hand—will save you valuable time. Workers’ comp visits involve on-the-job injuries, but you can still be prepared by using your EHR and PM system to send documentation to pertinent parties automatically.

Idea 8

Track Changes and Adjust as Needed

Once you’ve decided on steps to cut and refine, document it. But don’t treat your workflow as set in stone. Be willing to examine and alter steps as needs change—especially as ICD10 and Meaningful Use Stage 2 take effect. It’s helpful for your staff to be mentally prepared for both new documentation needs and corresponding workflow changes.

Conclusion

Be willing to continuously examine ways to improve. Encourage staff to give input on areas where they think time could be saved—or a step could be completed more efficiently. Listen to their ideas and be willing to try new steps as new technology and processes emerge.

Refining clinical workflow can take time and requires a commitment to improvement. True, it can be a little painful, but the results are worth it. Think of your workflow as a diamond being polished and cut into a fine gem. Getting rid of the flaws will make a better finished product, both for your staff and patients.