Five Factors of Success in Urgent Care Clinics
The success of an urgent care center revolves around several factors that seem to work together hand in hand to produce a long lasting clinic that patients continue to flock to when an urgent need arises. Several owners of urgent care brands speak out about the top five factors of success in urgent care clinics and in the overall field. The Ambulatory M&A Advisor teams up with their knowledge to show you why clinical quality, regulatory compliance, stellar customer service, financial management and operational competence are the factors that should be placed at the forefront of a clinic operator’s mind.
Clinical Quality and Operational Competence
Gregory Smolin, CEO of All Better Care Urgent Care says that he doesn’t rank the importance of the factors because they are the most obvious five biggest success factors for a physician owner.
“They are all uniquely important. I think that as I have seen our organization grow over the five years that we have been in business, the thing that I’d have to put at the top of the list is operational competence because that is really what is visible to our patients,” Smolin says.
Smolin explains that clinical quality is something that patients take as a given in medicine.
“When you go to a doctor, you assume that you are going to get the right treatment, you’re going to have the right diagnosis, the right medication. It’s not going to be one that you are allergic to or interact with your other medications. That is a given,” Smolin says.
What Smolin says is not universally expected is how competently the care will to be delivered. Smolin says this is one of the biggest issues he hears from people in reference to other clinical experiences.
“They are frustrated because they had a test done and it wasn’t reported back to them. They can’t get through to their office, they can’t get questions answered. I think that’s the thing that really resonates with our patients is how we interact and communicate with them in taking care of their health care needs,” Smolin says.
Stephen Nuckolls, CEO of Coastal Carolina Health Care, P.A. says that above all, he thinks clinical quality is always very important.
“We have always got to get the right diagnosis, we have got to treat people that we are capable of treating and do what’s right for them. Our urgent care serves a lot of our patients but because we are a multi-specialty clinic, they also serve the community at large. It’s especially important for our patients who are unable to get in to see their regular doctor because their schedules are too tight, something emergent comes up,” Nuckolls says.
Nuckolls says his clinics have the ability and operational competence to handle anything from lacerations to more complicated situations.
“So,it’s very important for us to use our standardized clinical protocols when they are working with this and that they are coordinating with our various specialists as well if they need input on that patient from other disciplines,” Nuckolls says.
Donna Franklin, administrator for Limestone Medical Aid Unit in Delaware says the biggest key factor to here is patient care.
“People come to us because they are sick and injured. They are looking to us to get the best quality care in the least amount of time, and obviously for the least expenses,” Franklin says.
“In operational competence, we just need to make sure we are doing the right thing with the doctors assessing the patient, and getting the patient out of there in the shortest time possible with the best care possible.”
According to Nuckolls, healthcare is one of the most regulated entities that he is aware of.
“We have everything from OSHA regulations to Stark to coding, billing compliance policies, to human resource policies, any business today, in healthcare especially, we really have to be aware of compliance and making sure that we maintain in compliance,” Nuckolls says.
Nuckolls admits that keeping up with regulations can be more challenging for smaller organizations due tohaving to utilize outsourced resources to assist in any issues that may arise.
Nuckolls explains thata larger multi-specialty clinic would most likely have a compliance officer and people that specialize in different areas from human resources, to coding and billing compliance.
“We have our in-house resources in addition to the consultants that we utilize when we have more specific questions,” Nuckolls says of his own clinics.
Franklin agrees that compliance and following through on these regulatory standards is extremely important to the success of an urgent care business.
“Remember, we are doing this not just for profit, but for the overall safety, and well-being of the patient. It is very important. You know if a patient is better served at the ER, then we are the first to make sure that patient gets to the proper care that they need,” she says.
Franklin says her staffs of experts go through quarterly trainings for each of the clinic’s division in order to stay up to date with the ever changing state of compliance in the health care world.
“It’s tough, because financial management obviously takes place behind the scenes. It’s not visible to your entire operation, but your entire operation is dependent on the accuracy and competence of your financial management skills,” Smolin says.
According to Smolin, the things that are at the top of every owners concerns are; payroll, fair compensation, adjusted compensation over time, rewarding people for good work, and knowing how to keep employees in an organization for the long term.
“The second thing has got to be employee benefits. Health insurance…it’s every business’ challenge right now to maintain a benefits package that doesn’t completely break the bank while providing health insurance to your employees,” Smolin says.
Nuckolls says there are some basic metrics that businesses need to monitor. Part of that is collecting co-pays and verifying insurance at the point of care as well as collecting deductibles and co-insurance at the point of care.
“Having good systems in place is very important and critical to that, but also having good policies and procedures and then being consistent with those policies and procedures to make sure that the staff is following them are very important. Negotiating contracts with payers and making sure that keeps the business coming in. You don’t want people not to come in because it is out of network or because they have a higher co-insurance and deductibles because it is out of network,” he says.
When it comes to his clinics, Nuckolls explains that customer service is key. He says this travels the spectrum of patient wait times and helping manage the appropriate staffing in the office.
“To keep wait times reasonable is very important, and then patients are satisfied. We have historically done an annual patientsatisfaction survey, but are going to a more point of care to get more immediate feedback on how people are doing and how they are feeling. It lets us know how we are doing so that we can make changes or better service. The second positive impact is keeping the staff on their toes,” Nuckolls says.
Smolin says when dealing with customer satisfaction, the first thing is getting patients seen for their problem when they need to be seen.
“Just being efficient, getting people seen almost immediately during our hours of operation. Communication from all of the components of our staff, from answering questions regarding registration, insurance, billing, co-pays…all of those things which are front end concerns for patients. Getting accurate information from our clinical staff, making sure we have patient’s medications and allergies is important,” Smolin says.
Smolin says his clinics call every patient back at 48 hours to follow up and see if patients have any questions or problems that weren’t anticipated.
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