Once upon a time, the urgent care center’s claim to fame was access: extended hours, open on weekends and holidays, available when your family doctor wasn’t… Now? There’s a second urgent care center right down the street. And a third one after that. Access is simply not a “unique selling proposition” (or USP) anymore.
Now it’s all about the patient experience. It’s not good enough to offer convenient care on a walk-in basis. And no one gives a hoot about your board-certified physicians; quality is presumed.
Patients now demand:
- The right care when they want it.
- Transparent pricing.
- Reliable estimate of the expected wait time.
- An efficient, all-inclusive clinic experience that includes the necessary prescriptions, treatments, information, and referrals.
Which brings me to one of the biggest frustrations for medical practices in general and urgent care centers in particular: the amount of time spent on technology that was supposed to increase efficiency and provide better, more complete documentation. Alas, the EMR does not always deliver on this promise, and some urgent care centers are feeling the pain. I’ve seen providers spend up to 15 minutes typing out findings, fumbling through the Rx writer, struggling to find the right condition handouts, and having to almost manually create back-to-school or work reports.
Meanwhile the patient is waiting to leave, and those in line are wondering what’s taking so long.
I’ve written before about what’s wrong with urgent care EMR systems. The following are just some of the too-many-to-list necessary criteria and features, but the ideal EMR needs:
- An intuitive user interface that requires minimal training.
- “Smart” templates that allow for pre-filled sections with easy editing for each patient.
- A workflow tracker that displays who is in the office, where they are, what their status is and how long have they been here, and who needs to do what for each patient.
- Effective charge capture to optimize reimbursement.
- To track referrals from PCPs and communication back to them regarding their patient.
- To track specific metrics so providers and managers can identify bottlenecks and track provider productivity, as well as that of the center as a whole.
- Built-in, editable clinical decision support to enhance quality and speed. No one wants to hunt around to see whether a patient fails syncope criteria and should be admitted or fits the Wells criteria for DVT.
- To integrate with practice management and billing/RCM systems, labs, and imaging vendors.
- To be web/browser-based so practitioners can gain access from any device.
- To capture dates for worker’s comp patients (injury, off duty, modified duty), and generate useful return-to-work reports to the client.
- A portal for occ med clients to check the status of all employees under the clinic’s care (and drug screens/physicals specifically).
- To store DOT physicals in an electronic format that will auto-upload the certification determination to the NRCME website.
- Built-in and definable protocols for company physicals, needle-stick injuries (bloodborne pathogens), and TB screening.
- To be FAST, FAST, FAST!
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