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Managing wait times in urgent care

  • Jeanne Armstrong, M.D.
  • 03/01/2016

Have you noticed more advertisements from your local emergency and urgent care centers, talking about shorter wait times? It’s because healthcare organizations recognize that wait times play a significant part in satisfaction rates for patients and clinicians.

Monitoring a patient’s experience throughout the visit can be challenging, especially if an organization must manage resources across multiple sites. Sharp Rees-Stealy (San Diego, California, U.S.A.) uses Allscripts TouchWorks® EHR and the Patient Tracking Board to improve the patient’s experience across its five urgent care settings.

Improving patient experience in Sharp Rees-Stealy urgent care settings

Through a quality-improvement initiative featured in a recent case study, the organization focused on three areas: intake, radiology and discharge. By streamlining these processes, Sharp Rees-Stealy has become more efficient and significantly increased patient satisfaction scores.

The solution provides greater visibility as patients move through urgent care departments. “Day to day, the Patient Tracking Board helps staff manage patient flow,” Urgent Care Supervisor Roxanne Norton, BSN, CEN said. “We can use milestones to see where patients are in their stay, the time that they’ve been in the department, notifications when orders are up – and it’s all minute by minute.”

Sharp Rees-Stealy met its quality improvement targets for urgent care, by reducing wait times and improving patient satisfaction. “Patients notice a difference, because it takes less time to get them into an exam room and seen by a physician,” Manager of Operations Cheri Pope said.

Top 3 advantages of using the Patient Tracking Board

As an urgent care physician, I see three main advantages to the Patient Tracking Board, for which the new version 16.1 is now generally available:

1) Enables clinicians to better prioritize by acuity

For departments that offer walk-in, same-day appointments, clinicians need a way to deal with acuity. You take patients in the order that they arrive, but a man over age 50 with chest pain needs to be seen urgently. A schedule module doesn’t have the same capability to bump people up or down based on the severity of their symptoms.

2) Speeds results for more acutely ill patients

Patients with complex conditions may be receiving multiple services – such as medications, breathing treatments, x-rays – and those results need to be available immediately. A tracking board order status lest you see a patient’s progress, and all the moving pieces, in a new way. Even though tracking boards are often thought of for urgent care and emergency departments, this capability could extend to other complex, team-based care settings. For example, I could see applications for chronic disease management programs or cancer centers coordinating a chemotherapy regimen for patients.

3) Improves visibility for care team members

Urgent care settings often use a team approach to care, which requires significant coordination among caregivers. The Patient Tracking Board enables clinicians to see who has been involved with each patient’s care and what has been done to date.

This version offers alerts, which helps clinicians keep track of what patients need and when, such as a clinical alert to repeat a blood pressure reading after a certain amount of time. Clinicians can temporarily delay the alerts, so that they can deal with frequent and necessary interruptions in real-world emergency and urgent care settings.

 

Sharp Rees-Stealy was instrumental in developing a Patient Tracking Board that would work across multiple sites to improve the patient’s urgent care experience. To learn more about this story, download a free case study.

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About the author

Jeanne Armstrong, M.D., is director of solutions management for Allscripts TouchWorks® EHR and is a practicing physician at Hendricks Regional Health Immediate Care (Avon, Indiana, U.S.A.).With more than a decade of experience in healthcare IT, Dr. Armstrong has in-depth knowledge in EHR training, system configuration, content development and change management. Dr. Armstrong is board certified in Family Medicine and Clinical Informatics and completed her family medicine residency at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. At St Vincent, she designed and facilitated a physician training program and support process for a community-based academic medical center with four (eventually five) residency programs, overhauled workflow and content to create a paperless immediate care, developed system content for multiple specialties, and helped facilitate an electronic data conversion between competing EHR systems. Dr. Armstrong earned a Certificate in Clinical Informatics, Clinician Leader from Indiana University, earned her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Franklin College of Indiana.

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