Patients & Hospitals Are Turning to Urgent Care Facilities For Aid

Extraordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things | Roger Stanmore MD, JDIf you’ve been paying any attention to the American health care system, you’ve probably noticed the rise in Urgent Care Centers.

These facilities offer medical services primarily to people who either cannot access their primary care physician or do not have one. Most patients are sick or injured, but not badly hurt enough to require emergency care. Commonly treated issues include fevers, stomach pains, diarrhea, and minor cuts and sprains. Many Urgent Care Centers also offer services such as vaccinations, blood tests, and STD testing.

Urgent Care Centers fill a much-needed niche. They help reduce wait times in Emergency Rooms, save patients money, and give ER doctors and nurses the space to focus on real emergencies. Many Urgent Care Centers began outside of the hospital system, seeking to offer a solution to overcrowded ERs. But just because Urgent Care Centers aren’t Emergency Rooms doesn’t mean that they can’t be affiliated with hospitals. In fact, many hospitals are now realizing it may be advantageous, both for themselves and for the patients, to team up with Urgent Cares.

Today there are about 7,100 Urgent Care Centers in the United States. Of those, 22% are owned by hospitals, and 15% more are in partnerships with a hospital. Hospitals can send patients to Urgent Care Centers for follow-up appointments. They can also advertise their affiliated Urgent Cares and encourage patients to visit Urgent Care Centers for non-emergencies.

From patient’s perspectives, Urgent Care Centers that are affiliated with hospitals are more likely to accept Medicare or offer financial aid, while also being considerably cheaper than regular hospitals. And while non-affiliated Urgent Cares usually allow patients to send any information gathered at the center to patients’ regular physicians, with affiliated Urgent Cares the sharing is generally more streamlined.

Also, in general, patients are also more willing to trust an Urgent Care associated with a hospital, especially if that hospital has a good reputation. Unaffiliated Urgent Cares may offer excellent services, but since the whole concept of Urgent Care Centers is still relatively new, affiliated centers have the advantage of familiarity.

It’s uncertain exactly what role Urgent Care Centers will play in the future. New technologies, such as self-diagnosis and self-check-up technologies, will likely be adopted by Urgent Cares even more quickly than they will by more traditional hospitals and independent physicians. And with the shifting climate surrounding American health care, much is still an unknown. Nonetheless, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Urgent Care facilities are here to stay.

 

National Urgent Care Awareness Month Educates the Public About the Importance of Urgent Care Medicine

471377933_1280x720National Urgent Care Awareness Month is a month that’s observed annually and it celebrates the urgent care professionals and clinicians who are a vital part of emergency care medicine and overall health care. By bringing awareness to the industry, we can educate the media, the public, and medical professionals about the capabilities of this particular subsector of healthcare.

Unfortunately, millennials are most likely to be confused about their health care options, which makes it far more difficult for them to seek out the assistance they need when they’re suffering from afflictions. According to a survey by the Urgent Care Association of America, which was conducted for Urgent Care Awareness Month, Millennials are nearly twice as likely as Baby Boomers to be confused about when and where to seek health care. Approximately 15 percent of respondents ages 18-34 have experienced difficulty, compared to just eight percent of individuals over the age of 65.

“During Urgent Care Awareness Month, we wanted to gain insight into the health care decision-making process for all generations to better understand what is important to different types of patients,” said Steve Sellars, MBA, and UCAOA President. “We learned the majority of respondents understand their health care options, but affordability, quality, and convenience are main determinants of where they seek their health care treatments.”

The survey found that Baby Boomers prioritized experienced physicians, while Millennials were more likely to seek out cost-saving and convenience. Approximately 34 percent of individual over the age of 65 prioritized the health care professional they’ll see, compared to 19 percent of individuals between 18 and 34. The location is most important for those between the age of 35 and 44, and having a physician on-site is most important to those over 45.

Urgent care centers are an ideal choice for many who are in need during a non-emergency situation that requires immediate attention. These non-emergencies can arrive in the form of colds, broken bones, the flu, sprains, or common illnesses. Most urgent care facilities are equipped to handle blood work, casts or splints, x-rays, or prescription medicines.

“Urgent Care Awareness Month recognizes the commitment of thousands of clinical providers and administrators, as well as those delivering products and services to this fast-growing industry.” said P. Joanne Ray, Chief Executive Officer of UCAOA. “. This month’s celebration is an opportunity to remind the public that urgent care centers are ready and available to make their lives easier and healthier. While urgent care will never take the place of a primary care doctor for ongoing or chronic care, and is not a replacement for the emergency room in life- or limb-threatening situations, nearly 7,200 urgent care centers across the country bridge the gap between these options and provide an affordable, convenient, quality choice for many common medical issues.

While urgent care will never take the place of a primary care doctor for ongoing or chronic care, and is not a replacement for the emergency room in life- or limb-threatening situations, nearly 7,200 urgent care centers across the country bridge the gap between these options and provide an affordable, convenient, quality choice for many common medical issues.”

5 Pieces of Medical Technology That Could Boost Your Urgent Care Center

14466922893_c3cf1124cb_bU.S.-based urgent care facilities are growing rapidly, sprouting up aggressively across the nation. According to American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine, there are roughly 9,300 centers nationwide, though that number is a little unclear due to the acceleration of this care model. As time moves forward, the marketplace has become a bit more crowded. In order to stand out amid the bevy of urgent care facilities, urgent care centers should have some fundamental pieces of medical technology in order to thrive.

Electronic Health Records

Urgent care facilities are a fast-paced environment, built around an understanding of rapid service, from intake to examination. In order to do this successfully, urgent care centers should put an EHR system in place in order to integrate paperwork with a billing program, to eliminate redundancies, and to ease the electronic submission of claims. Additionally, lab results can be logged into this system. The EHR can also be a resource for physicians who require an answer to a daunting medical question.

iPad EHR

An iPad EHR can help physicians chat with patients while maintaining eye contact, contributing to the overall patient experience. Also, they’re portable, they have a longer battery life than most laptops, and pictures can easily be captured on an iPad, which is important for documenting medical conditions.

CRM Tools

Customer relationship management is important for urgent care facilities in towns where there are competitors. Developing a message that sets you apart, and advertising your facility can help you to beckon patients who may be interested, but uneducated about the benefits of your services. Educate the public through relevant campaigns. You can do this by determining the most effective marketing opportunities, channels of communication, and demographic. Also by capturing and consolidating information on the main database, and identifying projected return on investment (ROI) of each campaign, it makes it so that operators will be more likely to reach a profitable customer base.

Practice Management Software

PM software is more than a medical billing program, it’s can streamline the administrative, financial, and clinical operations within a facility, which would enable physicians to offer patients incredible care. The software can do a number of things, including helping your organization to increase reimbursements, stay ahead of compliance regulations, enhance the patient experience, and improve the day-to-day operations.

Patient Portal

Patient portals are valuable assets, allowing patients to access all of their personal information, everything from an upcoming appointment, to a list of medications, to billing, to lab results, to appointment requests. Today’s consumers want access to information they deem important, and they use that information to help them make decisions regarding their own health. These portals can also offer educational literature, allowing a patient to learn at their own convenience. When patient portals are integrated with EHR systems, it can improve patient care and provider workflow.

Should Urgent Care Centers Embrace Telemedicine?

1024px-Telemedicine_ConsultWhile urgent care providers view telemedicine as a threatening competitor, which could siphon patients from their customer base, the urgent care institution Doctors Care doesn’t feel that way. Embracing the ever-popular “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy, Doctors Care has chosen to increase its use of telemedicine to offer its patients more options when they’re receiving care.

With 55 facilities across Tennessee and South Carolina, Doctors Care is expanding what it offers its client base, beginning with an investment in technology. The company uses communication systems already in place and existing information in order to offer patients supplemental services. Doctors Care doesn’t worry that telemedicine may divert patients from their brick-and-mortar facilities.

Looking at the model from the perspective of a consumer, officials offering non-medical support services saw the value of providing care to patients in a way that speaks to current trends and the future. Since 2013, Doctors Care has been examining telemedicine and gauging how these services would be incorporated into standing services. The company acknowledged that wait time at some of its urgent care sites could be three hours or more while other location had absolutely no wait time.

Equipping facilities with telemedicine capabilities makes it possible for individuals visiting crowded sites to be seen remotely or immediately, in order to ease numbers in these busier waiting rooms, acting as a load balancing approach. Doctors Care operators found that patients frequently opted to be examined remotely, with medical assistants or nurses administering these examinations. Furthermore, the technology makes so that an all-in-one camera supports dermatological examinations of the nose, ear, throat, eye, or skin, as well as an otoscope. Physicians are also equipped with Bluetooth-enabled stethoscopes, and patients are able to receive X-ray procedures and labs at presentation sites.

Doctors Care builds on existing telephone and network infrastructure to support their telemedicine initiative. This has helped the company to achieve some of its key goals, which are increasing patient satisfaction and reducing patient wait time. By doing this experiment, operators found that many patients prefer telemedicine, regardless of wait time at facilities. This is perfect for conditions that don’t require on-site examination, particularly those for upper respiratory illnesses, fever, ear infection, sore throat, sinusitis, eye infection, life infection, and mild skin conditions. The telemedicine features also include direct-to-consumer consultations. The company spent just $50,000 to expand telemedicine capabilities.

Urgent care is a viable alternative to the emergency room, and provider should be treating conditions or injuries just short of ER needs. Telemedicine is important for low-touch, non-emergency care, and it could enable facilities to offer more care in more venues, in the way of occupational health, specialists, or help operators. Telemedicine being marketed directly to consumers is somewhat new, nonetheless, it treats a subset of patients who have conditions suited for direct-to-consumer medicine.

Some will continue to believe that telemedicine poses a challenge while other urgent care centers will embrace telemedicine wholly.

Urgent Care or the Emergency Room, Which One Should You Visit?

16288-a-female-doctor-examining-a-patient-pvStrangely enough, there are still large populations of people within the U.S. who are totally unaware of the presence of urgent care facilities. Not only that, but many individuals who are aware of urgent care facilities are totally oblivious to the differences between urgent care and the emergency room.

It’s not unusual to watch someone rush off to the emergency room after discovering a new episode of illness or after one has injured oneself. However, depending on the nature of the emergency, there are different places that individual should visit. For a long time, the emergency room was the only option the public in case of an emergency or when a primary care physician was unavailable. However, there’s a new option available to the public now, urgent care.

While primary care physicians and emergency departments are foundations for the healthcare system, urgent care center have unveiled their value by offering convenient, time-efficient and inexpensive service during evening hours and at night. Urgent care facilities are able to see and assist patients with non-life threatening conditions who require care. Emergency rooms were designed to treat critical conditions such as broken bones, deep gashes or similar emergencies. Urgent care facilities were designed to treat vital, but non-threatening health issues.

Emergency rooms will always remain essential, but being seen there will always be an obstacle because the emergency room is obliged to see everyone. By law, emergency rooms are tasked to care for everyone, 24-hours-a-day and seven days a week. You don’t have to have an emergency to be seen there, and there’s a mandate that requires them to evaluate all patients and ensure that they’re safe enough to go home. 

Emergency waiting rooms become crowded because people want access to that acute-care and the numerous services. The emergency room is definitely the place to go if you require a cardiologist or a neurosurgeon, but urgent care center are more appropriate when you seeking physicians and nurse practitioners who can care for less serious issues.

Because urgent care facilities don’t offer quite as many services as the emergency room, it’s more cost-effective. The effective, low-cost facilities accept most forms of major insurance and they offer affordable pricing to those without insurance. Urgent care facilities are equipped to care for an earache, sore throats, sinus infection pink eye, fever, stomach flu, colds and upper respiratory infections. Also, they’re able to offer treatment for broken and sprains, stitches, and labs, x-rays, IVs, and EKGs. However, you should seek out emergency care if one has complex health issues related to high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney issues, or a stroke or chest pains, patient’s are asked to visit their local emergency room.

If you don’t know if you should venture to the emergency room or the urgency room, consider your level of pain or discomfort, as well consider the services you may require. Also, if you choose to visit an urgent care facility, know that you don’t need to make an appointment, and you will likely be in and out within an hour. Also, physicians at urgent care facilities are able to prescribe medicine.