Urgent Care

5 Strategies to Effectively Manage a Surge of Patients This Holiday Season

5 Strategies to Effectively Manage a Surge of Patients This Holiday Season

This week, Solv has seen record breaking traffic from patients to our app, up 4x since October, with 40% of that traffic consistently being COVID-test related. 

With this increased demand, the Urgent Care industry has been receiving unprecedented patient volumes, leading to outrageous wait times and lower patient satisfaction ratings. The media has also taken notice, including the New York Times. But what can you do about it as your staff works around the click to meet the needs of your community? How can you maximize your clinic's efficiency while simultaneously lowering wait times?

Patient volume can be a bit precarious. If there are no patients coming through your doors then the absence of revenue will force the clinic to close its doors. Conversely, too many patients walking in can cause your staff to want to pull their hair out from registering and managing multiple patients at a time, none of whom want to wait a long time to be seen.

COVID-19 may be keeping patients from booking their 6 month cleaning at their dentist, but it has driven millions of patients to the internet to find nearby facilities offering COVID-19 testing. As we head into the holiday season, patients want to spend time with loved ones, but not risk getting them sick. We are seeing a nation-wide spike in demand for COVID testing and don’t see this demand changing for the foreseeable future.

1. Provide enough availability for all patients to schedule online

Online scheduling allows patients to book visits online, at any time. This saves patients from having to wait all night for the clinic to open, time on hold, and going back and forth with the front desk staff to find a time where schedules align to schedule a visit. This frees up time for your office staff to spend on providing high-value customer service to patients who are waiting for their services. Online booking is just like making a restaurant reservation through OpenTable, just a few taps and the visit is confirmed. Solv’s recent patient survey found that 67% of patients prefer to book online.

With 1 billion searches taking place everyday on Google for healthcare related topics, and over 10 million month users to Solv’s site every month, it is the consumer destination for finding high quality convenient care services.

Providing real-time appointment availability allows last-minute open appointments to be scheduled. Solv’s AI queuing also allows online availability to automatically be blocked out if the clinic is running behind, and opens slots back up if the clinic is running ahead of schedule to maximize appointment availability and revenue.

In addition to attracting new patients, online scheduling through Solv helps you collect information from patients prior to their arrival. Collect patient demographics, government-issued photo ID, insurance information, registration forms, and consent forms before the patient arrives so insurance eligibility is complete prior to arrival and their covered services are verified before the visit begins.

Some clinics may experience 8 patients suddenly walk in for care, and have a knee-jerk reaction to disable online reservations. However, disabling online reservations does more harm than good, as patients know that they want to visit your clinic and instead of booking in a few hours or tomorrow, they will walk into your clinic and overwhelm your staff. Increasing online availability will allow patients to select less busy times in your schedule to load-balance and will result in a less stressed staff and happier patients who have short wait times.

Truly evaluate your current patient throughput and provider count. Consider if you are able to hire more seasonal staff to manage higher patient volume so that you do not need to turn patients away when they come to you for care. Realistically compare the total patients you are able to see based on every day of the week to find your throughput. Throughput may vary by day and depend on whether you have a faster or slower provider.

2. Leverage Solv's AI queuing to manage walk-in and book ahead patients 

    AI-powered scheduling and queuing systems monitor your waitlist and clinic throughput and optimize your wait time estimates, booking availability, and overall pacing to keep the clinic operating smoothly.

    For Online Bookings

    With AI-queuing, patients booking online are ensured accurate time slots that fully account for the walk-in activity and throughput that is happening within the clinic in real time. This allows the clinic to uphold the service promise made to each patient. Additionally, the clinic staff is able to send secure messages to these patients before they arrive to inform them of any changes to the schedule, or even invite them earlier.

    For Walk-Ins

    Patients walking into a clinic using AI-queuing are generally provided a more accurate wait time estimate that seamlessly accounts for any online bookings, as well as the clinics current pacing. When the online bookings are spaced further apart during busy times, this usually results in shorter waits. And the clear and timely messaging support from the clinic staff allows proactive communications to update patients and even allow them to wait in their car.

    For Clinic Staff

    Within the clinic itself, AI-queuing alleviates tedious work from the front desk staff, removing and adding available visit times for online bookings (or risk missing out on patients!). Staff is also generally more pleasant as their work loads are naturally smoothed throughout the day, they have removed preventable patient spikes, and with clear expectations being set and timely communications staff aren’t faced with irritable patients.

    3. Use reporting tools to identify bottlenecks

      Use the Solv Clinic Report to find the average times that patients are spending completing their paperwork, waiting for an exam room to become available and time spent in the exam room to highlight the bottlenecks present in the patient experience that is causing a long wait time.

      If patients are spending a long time completing their paperwork, consider consolidating or synthesizing your paperwork to only ask for necessary information. If patients are spending a long time waiting for an exam room to become available, consider cleaning out the exam room currently being used for storage so that it can be used. If patients are spending a long time in the exam room, then consider whether a provider can be encouraged to continue providing thorough care, but perhaps provide less personal anecdotes and treat the patient only for their chief complaint.

      4. Create a streamlined patient intake process

        Inefficient registration processes become increasingly painful when patient volumes are high. Patients are faced with stressed out staff, experience long wait times, and generally leave lower reviews even if they liked the provider and received high quality care. This is concerning when considering that 71% of patients use online reviews as the first step to finding care.

        Solv partners have found great success in streamlining their registration process by providing patients with Contactless mobile check-in. Patients can digitally check into their visit upon their arrival and upload their insurance card, payment information, and photo ID without having to physically share these items with the front desk staff. This streamlines the registration process and reduces data entry errors.

        5. Maintain consistent patient communications

          Did you know that 69% of patients would prefer an unfamiliar number to contact them via text rather than a phone call? Message patients in real time to inform them of updates before, during, and after their visit. Gone are the days when patients answer phone calls from unknown numbers. If the patient has uploaded an inactive insurance card, you can request she brings a new card to the visit by sending the patient a quick SMS message.

          If a provider is running late and a patient is waiting in their car and not the waiting room, let the patient know that it’ll just be 5 more minutes and then send a subsequent message when it’s her turn to enter the waiting room to be taken to the exam room and be seen.

          After the visit, let the patient know that her test results are ready and to give you a call to discuss. Quick, clear messages from the practice save your staff time by not requiring long holds, and leaving countless messages on a voicemail machine that will likely be listened to far in the future.

          Braving through the storm of high patient volumes this holiday season can seem daunting, but with a few simple steps to streamline your clinic operations, you will be able to see more patients and gain their loyalty for life. Solv is your partner throughout this busy season, and we’re excited to see your revenue grow and patient loyalty sustain for many years to come!

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