The urgent care industry faces a special challenge during the coronavirus. Patients are unsure if centers are safe, but also desperately need to visit. As a result, urgent care businesses have seen dramatic ebbs and flows in revenue.
As we move into August, widening COVID-19 spread has resulted in increasing visit volumes. We’ve tested out new approaches, we’ve learned a lot, and we know the coronavirus will be with us for a while. So, now is a perfect time for your urgent care business or division to revisit (or create) your strategy for delivering care amid a global pandemic.
Let’s take a step-by-step look at how your urgent care can adapt and thrive:
Step 1: Provide (& Communicate) Safe Care
In the past, a patient would arrive at the urgent care center, walk to the front desk, and register for their visit. They would be greeted and allowed a place to sit. Urgent care centers are now required to implement a new process and patient experience. The priority is to keep patients with COVID-19 symptoms isolated, so that everyone can remain safe from exposure.
Many urgent cares and emergency departments across the United States began implementing “clean side, dirty side” policies. Some larger health systems now designate entire urgent cares as “COVID care” or “COVID safe” to separate potential COVID-19 patients from other health complaints.
Providers who offer both on-demand and scheduled care could opt to separate potential COVID cases from others by scheduling distinct time blocks. Those who offer only on-demand care often chose to make all patients wait in their cars or outside.
Questions for you to consider:
- What strategy did you use to reduce transmission?
- Review your survey responses and online reviews. What kind of patient experience have you created?
- How can you adjust your patient communications ahead of the visit to address this feedback?
- How can you adjust clinical operations to address this feedback?
- How might these adjustments affect quality of care or Net Promoter Score?
Step 2: Renew Your Focus on Patient Experience
Healthcare providers across the country are putting their own health at risk to care for their communities. It requires them to wear full PPE. Without being able to leverage their usual non-verbal cues, such as a smile or other facial expression, providers are struggling to communicate their concern and put patients at ease.
Now is the time to actively review your team’s strategies for improving the patient experience while wearing PPE. Solicit feedback so your team can share their collective wisdom on making patients feel welcome, understood, and taken care of.
Ask your providers one simple question: How have you managed to connect with patients while wearing PPE?
You can ask this question through an in-person meeting, or you can solicit their feedback through an open-ended question in a survey. Either method of qualitative research may generate incredible insights to share with staff across multiple urgent care sites.
Step 3: Find a New Revenue Stream
If your urgent care centers continue to struggle financially, you may need to branch out. It may be as simple as launching a marketing campaign for existing patients to book telehealth appointments. Or maybe it’s something further outside of the box. Could you provide drive-up testing? Could you contract with a private company or the government to provide testing in the field?
One large hospital system on the West Coast implemented a unique program to address the need for aftercare of COVID-19 patients after discharge. The system’s urgent cares were primarily staffed with nurse practitioners and physician assistants. These providers were already comfortable treating acute illnesses and providing triage and telehealth services.
So, based on a literature review, the system developed and implemented a risk-stratification questionnaire in their HIPAA-compliant, SMS patient engagement platform. Abnormal vital signs or a report of specific symptoms will trigger an alert. The urgent care provider then initiates a telemedicine visit. Not only does the patient receive needed care, but the system generates revenue—all without the transmission risk of a traditional follow-up visit.
Questions for you to consider:
- What new marketing strategies have you explored during the pandemic? Describe the results.
- What new services have you explored during the pandemic? Describe the results.
- Consider the examples described in this blog post. What other examples have you observed in the field? What innovative idea can you think of?
Succeeding in a Time of Crisis
COVID-19 has significantly disrupted urgent care, from the patient experience to the business’ financial health.
The good news is we have a choice. We can see these challenges as a temporary challenge to weather until a return to the status quo. Or, we can see an opportunity to reshape our organizations with a renewed focus on the experience of our patients and providers. In 2020 it’s more important than ever to solicit feedback, engage providers, and innovate. If we do, we’ll adapt and succeed together.
Collecting survey data is easy. Making sense of it is hard. Fortunately, we can help.