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Posted by: Matthew D. Weintraub BSN, RN, PHRN, CEN, CPEHR, CPHIMS and Executive VP Product Management & CNIO for Wellsoft (A Division of Medsphere)
Choosing the right software solution for an urgent care center can seem overwhelming. As the industry has rapidly evolved over the past few years, so has the landscape of vendors and offerings. Even with recent vendor consolidation, there are numerous options available which may include one or more of the following components: EHR/Clinicals, Practice Management (PM), Revenue Cycle Management (RCM), and Patient Engagement and Acquisition solutions.
To find the right solution for you based on your needs and goals, it’s imperative to do your homework. The success of your urgent care depends on it!
Whether you are looking to purchase a software solution or replace your existing one, here are the top questions to ask potential vendors:
Workflow is critical to the success of your operation. After all, efficient workflows impact patient wait times and satisfaction, staff productivity and business profitability.
All urgent care team members from front desk staff to clinicians and practice administrators, should be equipped with the right tools to optimize workflow and efficiencies throughout the patient encounter. The vendor should utilize best practices and tailor the solution to fit the center’s unique workflow and needs without adding additional customization costs to your software. Ask how the software utilizes automation tools and other features to help speed up the patient flow process from registration and screening all the way through to discharge and billing.
Start with an evaluation of the patient tracking board. Is it easy to identify where patients are in the encounter process? Does it help drive workflow by identifying what needs to be done for each patient and refresh automatically? Is it easy to access or is a user required to be authenticated and in front of the screen to get the information? How many clicks does it take to get from the board to more detailed clinical information (e.g.: H&P, orders, results, etc.)? How does the board help enhance team communication and collaboration (are real-time eligibility checking, occupational health requirements, co-payments and deductibles integrated into the board—or are teams siloed by role and process)? This is a critical component of your system, so make sure you thoroughly kick the tires!
Urgent care teams need a system that is easy to learn and use (for the full-time staff as well as the part-timers and moonlighters). A cumbersome system negatively impacts adoption, staff morale, productivity – and can negatively impact the patient’s experience. It’s imperative the system is quick, streamlined, easy to navigate, and accurate.
As provider salaries are one of the largest costs of running an urgent care center, profitability is dependent on the number of patients that can be seen. Your staff’s adoption of the system will be directly related to the intuitiveness and usability of the clinical/EHR system. The best systems will have development teams directed by experienced clinical providers. As systems grow, non-clinical programmers expand screens and prompts to accommodate new enhancements. This is the biggest reason systems become clinically unusable!
While not traditionally easy to measure, usability has come to the forefront in regards to EHRs. As part of its 2015 edition certification process, the ONC established Safety-Enhanced Design criterion that requires EHR vendors certifying to patient safety-related criteria to have a user-centered design approach. EHR vendors must conduct and submit an industry-standard summative usability evaluation of their system. Ask to see the vendor’s raw data and System Usability Scale (SUS) to see how it compares to other systems.
Some urgent care systems don’t have necessary safeguards in place to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. Many urgent care owners worry about this— and for good reason. To ensure patient safety and revenue optimization, look for a closed loop system that has intelligent checks and balances built-in and not dependent on “additional components” offered at extra charges.
Some of these include automatic eligibility checking, auto-populated fields to eliminate manual entry, order and results tracking, unresolved issues management tracking, integrated EDI solutions, real-time error alerts, automatic charge capture, efficient A/R collection tools and more.
In order to derive the most benefit from an urgent care system, the software vendor needs to do their homework and fully understand your workflow, goals, needs, and be able to tailor your system accordingly. Ask the vendor to make a customization for you and evaluate their response. Remember, the best vendors will work with you as partners, not just another customer. Because you want your business to grow, challenge your vendors’ knowledge and experience with best practice methodology. Do they have information to give you or do you spend more time educating them?
To manage expectations, it’s also important to get an understanding from each vendor of how long implementations typically take, what the learning curve is of the system, and what the implementation team would look like (for example: how experienced are the key members and what do each of them bring to the table?).
Implementation success is critical, but post implementation support will be the lifeblood of your system. What are the 3 most common support issues and how long do they take to get resolved? How does the software assist you in identifying issues as well as potential issues? How do you contact the original implementation team with questions 12 months after go-live? What is considered support versus new configuration, and how does the vendor charge for those services? Are version upgrades included in your purchase, or does the vendor charge for the upgrades?
All of these are key to a successful implementation and life of your system. TALK with references, evaluate non-vendor sponsored reports such as KLAS, and try calling their support after-hours to test their response.
It may initially seem like many software vendors provide the same offerings. However, if you “look under the hood”, you’ll see there are plenty of differences.
Almost all vendors provide ePrescribing, mobile capabilities, image capture and discharge planning. However, not all provide a robust patient tracking and clinician guided risk management system that streamlines workflow from pre-arrival through disposition and alerts users for missing data, time thresholds, and clinical decision support pathways. Similarly, how does the system track post-visit issues such as late arriving labs, radiology over reads, or patient questions and concerns? Is the workflow similar for your staff, or does post-visit resolutions require a different tool set and additional training?
Does the solution provide additional value for your team and business, such as:
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to software solutions for urgent care centers. By asking the right questions, you are better equipped to finding the perfect one to fit your needs – and to help you succeed and grow.
This blog article is a benefit of UCA's Corporate Support Partners (CSP) program. Thank you to MedSphere, a Silver Level CSP.
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