As respiratory and flu season ramps up, many urgent care clinics find themselves stretched thin. Managing high patient volume efficiently becomes extremely important. One metric that’s particularly important to keep in mind at this time is patient throughput.
Patient throughput is the movement or flow of patients through your clinic, from the time they arrive until the time they leave, commonly referred to as door-to-door time in the urgent care industry. Many clinics use this key performance indicator to understand the trends in their clinic efficiency.
Here’s what you need to know about patient throughput, and why improving door-to-door times can lead to increased patient volume and improved patient satisfaction.
Understanding the Urgent Care Patient Journey
The urgent care patient journey involves all touchpoints of care from the time a patient searches for a provider and books an appointment, all the way through to their follow-up care. As you think about managing patient flow, here are a few important steps along the way that you’ll need to keep in mind:
- Appointment booking or walk-in
- Check-in and triage
- Medical assessment and diagnosis
- Treatment and intervention
- Discharge and follow-up
To ensure your patients are getting the best care & experience possible it’s important to develop a thorough understanding of patient throughput at your urgent care at all key touch points along the way.
Assessing Current Urgent Care Patient Journey Efficiency
Thorough data collection and analysis are important in being able to assess your clinic’s patient journey efficiency. This data lets you know what’s working in your clinic, what isn’t working, and where you can improve. As you work to optimize efficiency across the patient journey, you’ll need to track quantifiable metrics known as key performance indicators (KPIs) that let you know how you’re doing. In addition to door-to-door times, additional KPIs include:
- Patient wait times
- Door-to-door times
For each patient visit, you’ll want to consider this in three distinct phases:
- Arrived to ready
- Ready to exam
- Exam to discharge
- Patient follow-up
- Patient satisfaction
- Provider satisfaction
Strategies for Optimizing the Urgent Care Patient Journey
As you look to optimize the patient journey at your urgent care clinic, a few specific strategies are particularly helpful:
Reducing Wait Times
Patients don’t like long wait times — it’s as simple as that. Research shows that the longer patients are kept waiting, the more negative their reviews following their visit. They’re also more likely to have a negative perception of their visit, even if they received high-quality care.
Fortunately, there are multiple strategies you can use to reduce wait times, including streamlining your check-in process with contactless check-in, giving patients the option to book ahead, and better distributing your patient volume throughout the day by load-balancing online appointments during slow hours. Not only do these tactics leave you with happier and more satisfied patients, but staff will feel less rushed and more in control of their schedule, too.
Clear communication between departments is key, especially as patients move through their patient journey. Effective communication isn’t solely about saving time — it also helps avoid errors and ensures patients are receiving the best care possible. You can optimize communication in many ways, such as by leveraging technology and by making sure each department is communicating in a way other departments can clearly understand.
Equally important is improving the flow of communication between the patient and provider. You’ll want to keep patients well informed about their care, condition, treatment options, and expected wait time. It’s important to deliver this information clearly and compassionately. By using technology like digital displays and mobile messages to establish an open line of communication with your patients, you can improve patient satisfaction by giving them the chance to ask questions, share feedback, and receive updates.
Resource Allocation and Staffing
When staffing is limited and patient volumes are high, your employees may feel stressed and overwhelmed. Collecting quality data about your patient volumes can help you optimize staffing allocation so that you’re not loading providers with an overwhelming number of patients per hour. Establishing a staffing model that aligns staffing decisions with patient demand will help you manage labor costs and protect your bottom line.
Consider using wait time data and real-time patient volumes to load balance patients across different clinics or hours of operation. This reduces the strain on providers and can help shorten wait times, improve efficiency, and increase patient and provider satisfaction.
One of the best ways to improve and optimize patient throughput at your urgent care clinic is through leveraging the power of technology. Technology can help automate and streamline burdensome processes like check-in and patient discharge. It can also help with interdepartmental communication, appointment scheduling, entering notes managing a patient’s electronic health record (EHR), and more.
If you’re looking to increase patient volume while still maintaining efficiency, telemedicine may be another effective strategy to explore. Telemedicine offers convenience and flexibility for patients, thereby increasing their satisfaction with the experience. Additionally, telehealth can increase touchpoints of care, facilitating follow-ups with patients and improving patient outcomes.
Meanwhile, with digital way-finding technology, you may be able to offer lower door-to-door times and more expedient care.
Measuring and Sustaining Improvements
- Post-implementation KPIs for Urgent Care
- Strategies for Continuous Improvement
- The Importance of Ongoing Feedback and Adaptation
As patient volume increases during respiratory and flu season, improving operational efficiency is key. You can accomplish thisthrough reducing wait times, better allocating your staffing resources, leveraging technology, and improving communication between departments.
Discover how Solv can help you improve patient throughput today.