By Adam Steinberg, EVP client experience, Experity.
The popularity of urgent care has grown continuously over the past several decades, but in just the last few years, the U.S. market has exploded as more and more patients look for nonemergent care options that are more affordable, accessible and convenient.
For many patients, urgent care offers more flexible hours than traditional physician offices and provides care that is both faster and less costly than a visit to the emergency room. The benefits of urgent care were further accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as clinics across the country swiftly adapted to meet the evolving needs of patients and proved that healthcare can be high-velocity, high-quality and accessible to the masses.
Urgent care clinics served a crucial role in providing accessible testing and vaccination for the COVID-19 virus. As a result of urgent care’s impressive response to this demand, its status in the broader healthcare continuum has elevated it to the care site of choice for millions of patients, leading to a significant rise in daily patient visit volumes and expanded expectations for clinics nationwide.
While patient demand and visit volumes continue increasing for U.S. urgent cares, as do staffing shortages. Keeping clinics fully staffed and ensuring staff satisfaction is a top priority for clinic leaders and owners to continue meeting growing patient demand. To better understand the industry’s most pressing growth and retention challenges, and to provide urgent care leaders with actionable insights to support staff satisfaction at their own practices, urgent care leaders across the country were surveyed in the spring of 2022 to reveal beneficial strategies to boost success in these areas and fundamental changes necessary for urgent care clinics to retain and attract talent.
Keeping Staff Satisfied by Meeting Their Top Needs
As demands on clinic staff increase, meeting and prioritizing employee needs is essential for retention. According to the responses from urgent care leaders surveyed about key initiatives they’ve implemented at their own clinics to keep staff happy on the job, the top two initiatives for increasing job satisfaction and retention were offering flexible scheduling and financial incentives.
Clinicians, radiologists, and front desk staff are some of the most difficult positions to fill at clinics right now, all of which are essential to a clinic’s day-to-day operations. Providing the desired incentives for clinic staff will help retain the current workforce and entice new talent to join the team – helping to maintain a fully staffed clinic that delivers on the promise to provide quality, accessible, on-demand care.
Increasing Operational Efficiency
Industry data shows that by 2023, U.S. urgent care clinics are expected to see an additional nine patients per day, taking the average visit volume from 38 patients a day to 47. To properly prepare clinic staff to handle this growing demand and avoid burnout, improving operational efficiencies is key as this area often contributes to frustrating workflows, administrative burdens, and time-consuming processes on the front end. Operational efficiency is a core component of success in the urgent care industry, as it allows practices to treat high volumes of patients while supporting a positive, productive work environment – making it essential for clinics to assess current operations and foundational processes to identify any inefficiencies that can hurt their clinic’s performance.
Simplifying workflows is always a good place to start and is often achieved when a clinic’s HIT solutions operate as a completely integrated system. For most urgent care practices, electronic medical record and practice management (EMR/PM) is the core software used to manage information. When combined with integrated patient engagement solutions, for example, clinics can streamline the patient visit from first contact through discharge, helping to register patients, collect demographic information, and ensure accurate codes for diagnostic classification, saving clinic staff hours of administrative work – a key driver of turnover and burnout.
Having standard operational procedures (SOPs) in place is another key area to add efficiency. Having solid SOPs certifies that all clinic staff are operating based on formalized, standardized and coordinated processes, which limits the risk of error and confusion, improves productivity, and reduces variables driving staff burnout. Informed by industry best practices, SOPs should be comprehensive and cover every function that an urgent care performs, from blood draws to patient check-ins, billing processes, etc. Doing so facilitates a clinic’s ability to perform at its highest potential as it continues to grow and retain its staff base.
Elevating Patient Engagement
Modern patient engagement technology plays a significant role in enabling staff to manage high volumes of patients with ease. When integrated with EMR/PM software, patient engagement technology provides patients with capabilities in seamless online scheduling, registration, smart queues, text reminders, surveys, payments and more. Integrated patient engagement solutions help optimize a clinic’s throughput, minimize administrative work, and refine care processes. By bolstering patient engagement, leaders can simultaneously improve areas of staff satisfaction.
As more and more patients turn to urgent care for their healthcare needs, and as urgent care clinics continue to grow and evolve to keep up with new demands, the importance of maintaining a fully staffed clinic is crucial for continued success. To keep current staff satisfied and attract new talent, urgent care leaders across the U.S. are identifying and taking more opportunities to meet staff’s workplace and financial needs, streamline workflows and use advanced technology to make their jobs easier wherever possible. These efforts will continue to be top of mind for urgent care leaders now and moving forward.