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By David Stern, CEO at Experity
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) played a big role in advancing the initial shift from paper to electronic processes in healthcare, as they allowed providers to input and access medical data within a secure, digital platform. EMRs today, however, are often criticized for making providers’ lives harder. EMRs are often described as inefficient, one-size-fits-all failures that aren’t built to serve specific markets, like urgent care and other on-demand care settings. Primary care providers (PCPs) reportedly still struggle with underperforming EHRs that don’t solve their challenges because they haven’t been, and never were, designed or tailored to meet their specific needs.
For providers in the rapidly growing urgent care and on-demand markets, inefficient systems profoundly impact their overall business by hindering patient throughput, patient experiences and patient and physician satisfaction – all which negatively affect revenue. The on-demand space has its own set of needs and challenges unique to their market, demanding an EMR built specifically for the urgent care business model.
While all healthcare providers must work to balance practicing good medicine with throughput, the pressure is amplified for the urgent care market. The COVID-19 pandemic made this heightened pressure evident, as it drove millions of patients to seek care from their local clinics in record numbers – driving the industry’s average daily visit volume up from 34 patients per day in 2019, to upwards of 50 now – resulting in a need to speed up clinic workflows. The significant growth and evolution happening in the urgent care market, including the increase in visit volumes, have created the need to speed up clinic workflows more than ever before.
To continue meeting the specific needs of providers, technology innovation, including that of EMRs, is constantly evolving alongside the urgent care space to keep pace. More specifically, there are some key features of purpose-built, intuitive and high-performing EMR systems that are crucial for driving urgent care business and will increasingly be applied to more traditional service lines, like primary care, moving forward.
Adaptability and flexibility
Efficient EMR systems designed for urgent and on-demand care must be intuitively designed to meet the specific needs of these providers. Additionally, high-performing systems must be adaptable and flexible enough to serve the current needs while also supporting significantly increased patient volumes.
In addition to seeing higher numbers of patients, providers are also taking on more types of patients and visits, as consumer preferences and expectations continue to shift. Urgent care and on-demand care providers must be readily equipped to respond to more types of patient visits, moving past flu vaccines and acute-related illness to more back-to-school physicals and occupational medicine services. This adaptability was vital to meet the pandemic-driven demand for COVID-19 testing, which required urgent care providers to scale their typical business model to safely serve millions of contagious patients nationwide. To reach the level of operational efficiency needed to handle this influx, flexible technology was, and is, a key factor in the industry’s ability to successfully respond.
Adaptability and flexible responsiveness are among urgent care’s greatest strengths, and when an EMR serves as the core of an operating system for these clinics, they must be designed to support these facilities in whatever ways they need – from managing hundreds of patients per day to treating expanded visit types when needed. And it must be accomplished without sacrificing efficiency, quality of care and the patient experience.
Having what you need and nothing you don’t
Having all the bells and whistles one could think of doesn’t necessarily add value when it comes to an EMR. Studies have unveiled shortfalls, including poor ease-of-use, complicated display of information, complex navigation and discrepancies with user workflow. Having too many choices often hurts, not helps, provider performance.
By choosing an EMR designed for a specific industry and business model, clinicians get all the tools they want and need for their distinct practice, without any additional add-ons or unnecessary features that can disrupt navigability and over-complicate the user experience. In the on-demand care realm, for example, automated charting options for a clinic’s most frequent visit type are a key driver of efficiency and accelerated workflows.
Other providers are also realizing the value of purpose-built solutions, as lines increasingly blur between traditional settings and on-demand care. Primary care practices are especially seeking and reaping the proven benefits of purpose-built EMRs to improve performance, eliminate unnecessary tasks and create seamless workflows.
Built to scale and support growth
Urgent care EMRs have proved the value of being able to chart quickly, as that ability contributes to the business’ scalability – supporting efficient patient throughput, easily inputting new patient information, managing high volumes and integrating new service lines. The role and reach of urgent care are growing dramatically, as the market becomes a one-stop-shop for all things on-demand healthcare and serves as a primary healthcare access point. Urgent care clinics can see over one hundred patients a day, and with this rapid growth, providers need to operate flexibly and effectively to scale successfully. Accordingly, EMRs must be designed to support the seamless expansion into additional services.
Drive revenue and returning patient volumes through simplified workflows
When documentation, communication, efficiency and workflows are improved, so is a patient’s overall experience. Using an EMR that streamlines workflows and enables staff to focus more time and attention on the patient instead of charting, helps reduce administrative burden that contributes to physician burnout. EMRs built for simple, specific workflows ultimately minimize friction and make healthcare delivery seamless, enabling providers to deliver more productive and enjoyable visits. This, in turn, contributes to smooth operations and experiences that encourage patients to return for future visits, which translates into higher visit volumes, satisfaction rates and revenue.
EMRs have been underperforming for far too long, and many still operate in a fragmented way. While many traditional providers struggle to operate efficiently due to legacy systems, urgent care and on-demand care providers are progressing rapidly thanks to technology that works for them – not the other way around. As on-demand care continues to grow and evolve, and as the entire healthcare continuum strives for greater efficiency, purpose-built solutions will be pivotal in meeting operational and business goals and delivering high-quality, expectation-meeting care moving forward.
About the author
David Stern, M.D., is the chief executive officer of Experity Health, a Warburg Pincus portfolio company and a leading software and services company providing integrated technology solutions to nearly 50% of the urgent care market nationwide. Dr. Stern was a physician and owner of six urgent cares before he founded Practice Velocity in 2002, which merged with DocuTAP in 2019 to form Experity. Prior to his tenure at Experity, Dr. Stern was a partner at Physicians Immediate Care, and was awarded the Lifetime Achievements Award and Lifetime Membership Award from the founding Board of Directors of the Urgent Care Association which he served on.