Urgent Care

3 Strategies to Manage Your Packed Waiting Room During A Surge

3 Strategies to Manage Your Packed Waiting Room During A Surge

Omicron has swept through the U.S. and left us with the familiar sense of deja vu that reminds us all of the early stages of the Covid pandemic. New Covid variants mean an increase in patient volume, the weight of which is falling heavily on our ambulatory care system.

A big risk to your business during a surge is delivering a subpar patient experience. When clinics are busy, patients don’t lower their expectations. They expect you to already have a plan in place. In fact, patients expect even more from you when you’re busy—and they’re quick to get angry when their expectations are mismanaged during times of stress.

What patients expect from Urgent Care clinics:

  • Same-day appointments
  • Quality care
  • Convenient locations
  • Short wait times
  • Easy online booking
  • The ability to book during off-hours
  • Transparent and honest communication

And if you don’t continue to deliver quality, patient-centric care when you’re busy, patients have every other local urgent care clinic’s information right at their fingertips. Keep your patient experience top-of-mind to make sure patients don’t move away from your brand.

How to manage your packed waiting room during a surge

Urgent cares, especially ones that accept walk-in patients, have a tricky job when it comes to balancing patient volume. The best urgent care operators know how to balance their patient volume to reduce wait times, and even increase their throughput. How do they do it?

How to load balance during omicron surge
How to load balance during omicron surge

They understand that the days of walk-ins are drawing to a close—quickly. Patients have become healthcare consumers—they want to be able to book their care online and have clear expectations around wait times. Successful healthcare operators understand this, and they’re shifting their business online where it makes sense for consumers.

Utilize online availability and reservations

Use an online appointment booking system to show patients your real-time availability. Healthcare consumers will check how busy the clinic is online before they show up. If they can see that you’re busy they’re much more likely to wait until the clinic slows down.

With online appointment booking right at their fingertips, patients are able to reserve a future time to come in—resolving their need to come to your clinic right away.

More insight into anticipated patient load ensures your staff feel less rushed during each appointment and more in control of their schedule, which in turn leaves the patient more satisfied with their care. It also means shorter wait times for your patients! Scheduled and walk-in patients will have a more relaxed experience and leave your clinic satisfied and more inclined to return.

Segment your waiting room by patient type

Once patients are at your clinic, use signage to separate them into groups. This will help you keep infection rates down in your waiting room, instead of having every patient type mixed inside together (with your staff). It also helps patients who aren’t experiencing Covid symptoms feel safer while they receive care at your clinic.

  1. Separate walk-ins from book-ahead visits (if you’re accepting walk-in patients)
  2. Separate symptomatic patients from asymptomatic/surveillance/travel testing patients and regular patients (lacerations, x-rays, etc)
  3. Bonus for a savvy operator: Create a line for low acuity urgent care patients to triage out of clinic to telemed

Triage using telemed

Telemedicine usage has soared through the pandemic. 80% of patients are open to care alternatives beyond traditional doctor visits, including telehealth. During the surge, empower your staff to triage all low-acuity patients (online, calling in, or walk-in) to a telemedicine appointment.

For example, if a patient has pink eye or rash, your team should triage them to telemed either in their car or at home. This will remove them from the clinic setting completely, keeping them safe and healthy. 87% of telemed patients receive everything they need from their virtual appointment and do not need to see a provider.

Surges and increased patient volumes can be handled effectively if you streamline your clinical workflow and implement a few best practices. When it feels overwhelming, lean into your tools to stay afloat. Whether you need tips like these, help with directional signage, or want to turn on online booking, we’re in your corner.

Solv helps you operationalize your business—from patient engagement to your clinical workflow to telemedicine—so that you can grow faster and easily navigate surges in patient volume in the future.

The Omicron variant has caused a post-holiday surge that we can help you navigate. We've made it easier (and faster!) than ever to start using Solv.

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