To achieve urgent care success within a hospital system, it’s critical to have the right tools. Your arsenal must include the best location, visible signage, ample parking, great staff focused on customer service – and the right EMR for the job.

When considering which electronic medical record software to implement in the urgent care, you shouldn’t default to the system used in the hospital. Even if the immediate care facility is part of a health network, urgent care patients have a different expectation for service and healthcare. Acute EMR systems cannot be modified to drive optimal workflow for urgent care patient visits. Here are four reasons why.

  1. They’re big and bulky. Urgent care is all about speed, but hospital EMRs are built to record and store patient information from every specialty and every care setting. These systems slow urgent patient flow. Patients expect to get in and out of urgent care in 30-60 minutes. An urgent care EMR has to be extremely efficient. Without proper workflow, your staff wastes time and your center loses money. With provider labor being the largest cost of running an urgent care, profitability is tied to how many patients per hour providers can see. Even on the back end, the wrong EMR in urgent care can slow down doctors if documentation is not complete. Having an urgent care-specific EMR that documents thoroughly and recommends the best billing code for the visit streamlines the process from patient care to profits.
  2. The demands and expectations of patients are different in urgent care. This piggybacks off the speed concern, but if urgent care patients end up waiting for too long at the center they will be unhappy and likely not return. Hospitals frequently open urgent care with the objective of driving “downstream” revenue to specialists, ancillaries and primary care. If patients are dissatisfied with the hospital-affiliated urgent care experience, they’ll likely go outside the health system for those services. Patients coming to urgent care, usually with minor illnesses or non-emergency wounds, aren’t interested in reviewing their entire medical history or working through a laundry list of potential ailments. These patients demand a higher level of customer service than those seeking healthcare in a more traditional setting. If their expectations aren’t met at the hospital system’s urgent care, they will go somewhere else. Having an urgent care EMR with templates customized for the chief complaints in that setting—cough, sore throat, sinus pain, back pain, or painful urination—makes the process faster. That’s not to say the doctor will overlook ancillary conditions. The EMR should be focused but flexible.
  3. Urgent care practice management and software “bakes in” a best practice workflow. Every aspect of the urgent care experience – from pre-registration to vitals, history and physical, ancillary x-ray and lab services, to discharge and billing – is handled within the urgent care system. Realizing there is an 80/20 rule, with a handful of diagnoses making up the majority of cases, you want an urgent care system like Practice Velocity’s Chartlet that enables providers to streamline even more in the system for the most commonly occurring conditions. Less time charting gives providers more time to interact with patients.
  4. Urgent care software should have integrated features: online check-in and patient engagement; credit card pre-authorization; radiology and ambulatory report access; submission of data to surveillance agencies for regulatory compliance and Meaningful Use; patient portal; patient education materials; and delivery of documentation.  Having built-in functionality for occupational medicine is another major selling point for an urgent care EMR. A system that eases the workers comp and occ med services for employers will help attract and retail business from those visits to your facility. Urgent care EMR includes functionality for all common services offered in the urgent care setting, whereas an enterprise system would have to be further configured for each additional function at significant time and expense.

Even though the broader health system EHR isn’t optimal for an urgent care center, integration is still key. The critical systems for urgent care aren’t always easy to access in a hospital EMR, but the health system still needs to meet the demands of population health management tied to new payment models and data collection requirements. It’s also good practice to make patient records available throughout the system to give providers a complete view and eliminate unnecessary tests.

Finding urgent care software that provides patient demographic and visit data to the enterprise system or health information exchange is a win-win for the system, providers and patients.