Prioritizing Goals and Pursuing Success in the Next Phase in Urgent Care 

Updated on January 29, 2024
Unknown woman-doctor and female patient sitting and talking at medical examination in sunny clinic, close-up. Medicine concept

The urgent care industry has a long history of adapting alongside changing market conditions and patient needs. Yet, physicians consistently face serious challenges, including burnout, that make these constant transitions difficult, particularly when it comes to meeting patient expectations and delivering top quality care.  

According to a recent report, more than 145,000 healthcare providers left the industry from 2021 to 2022. Physicians had the highest number of exits, accounting for almost half of departures during that period. Meanwhile, urgent cares saw record visit volumes during the pandemic and, though rates have regulated somewhat in recent years, already-strained providers have borne the burden of navigating patients’ changing expectations. Urgent care leaders need to step up and support their staff as we enter the next phase of the industry’s evolution. 

Leadership must not only listen to their staff in order to formulate a successful strategy, but communicate direction thoroughly and clearly in order to ensure it is properly executed. They should revisit the fundamentals of how their clinic and staff operate and listen to what works and what does not in order to understand where the problem lies. Urgent care staff are not to blame for ongoing challenges – it’s up to those running the organization to lead by example, allowing their feedback and ideas to inform a realistic, successful strategy. Having spent four years working in the White House medical unit in addition to serving as chief medical officer for a large urgent care organization, I have witnessed firsthand what makes a strong leader. Whether they are navigating global issues or handling complex healthcare dilemmas, purposeful communication and clear, well-informed goal setting were keys to their success. 

Identifying Priorities

Setting and prioritizing a number of goals can be overwhelming, especially when circumstances and regulations are constantly changing in the healthcare industry. In the case of urgent care, starting with one primary goal that can be prioritized by staff at all levels will help everyone maintain a shared focus and reduce feelings of overwhelm among the team. Leaders should identify a focus area with the greatest potential positive impact on the organization and determine a subsequent set of priority goals following initial success. 

When I began working as the chief medical officer of a large urgent care organization, I was immediately faced with the challenge of addressing staffing issues. As physician shortages cause unfortunate ripple effects across any healthcare organization and its workforce, I knew we needed to achieve a number of process-improvement goals, but I brought my team together to discuss our priorities. We landed on one goal that we all wanted to accomplish: filling the gaps in our shift schedule. 

Transparency Begets Teamwork

I found transparency and overcommunication to be crucial in building trust between myself and the team during our goal-setting exercise. Over the next six months, we set out on our goal to hire and train full-time providers to ensure there were no gaps in the schedule. By focusing on this one goal together, we were able to regularly check in as a team, track progress, and ultimately find success. Working together to set goals is great, but working together to achieve them is even better – and along the way, sharing progress updates will only help the team succeed, so long as they don’t become discouraged by slow or imperfect progress. During my team’s endeavor, we weren’t able to fill all the gaps we had hoped, but we did make significant improvements. I shared the numbers with the team and emphasized how well we had done, pointing out that the unmet need is not a failure, but an opportunity for us to keep pushing. 

Expanding Priorities for Broader Success 

After successfully meeting or making progress toward your top-priority goal, sit down with your team and decide which problem to attack next. Explore what is necessary to achieve each additional goal and what kind of impact it would have on the organization. Any goal that poses a small impact should be deprioritized, combined with another small goal, or eliminated from the list entirely. As part of this methodology, it’s helpful to create a roadmap or timeline for these goals and set realistic expectations by outlining the strategy that will be needed for implementation. From there, leaders should be able to clearly see which goal should be the new priority and determine tangible next steps. 

If your team is new to a goal-oriented approach, it can be useful to start with a goal that will lend you fast and effective results to create momentum. From there, you can build and set some long-term goals that won’t leave your team feeling disappointed. 

When looking at the many areas for improvement across an ever-evolving healthcare organization such as urgent care, aligning on one primary goal can often be more difficult than trying to tackle 5-7 at once. Urgent care leaders must work collaboratively with the entire team to strategically align on priorities and achieve successful execution, allowing providers to deliver care to the best of their abilities and ensuring urgent care, as an industry, capitalizes on its potential within the healthcare ecosystem. 

Dr. Benjamin Barlow
Dr. Benjamin Barlow
Chief Medical Officer at Experity

Dr. Benjamin Barlow is Chief Medical Officer at Experity.