The mass proliferation of urgent care clinics is a prime example of markets evolving alongside consumer demands. The facilities offer simplicity and convenience that traditional care systems have historically failed to match, and patients have responded favorably. Visits to urgent-care centers increased 19% from 2010 to 2015, according to a study by Accenture. Now, the global spread of the highly contagious coronavirus is likely to push those numbers even higher. As hospitals and traditional healthcare facilities are inundated with new cases, urgent care clinics are working on how to handle an influx of new patients. Their success will not come without growing pains, however, as urgent care communication technology standards and best practices have yet to be fully established.
How do facilities provide communications that are as fast and fluid as their novel care models? What are the technologies that best meet this need when setting up a new urgent care clinic? And most importantly, which tools are most likely to keep existing patients satisfied and new ones rolling in?
Let's Get This Straight: Urgent Care Communication Technology Matters
Thus far, the answers to these questions align with healthcare trends like consumerization, the growing thought that patients need to be treated like customers. While traditional medical markets have embraced consumerization through offerings such as healthcare contact centers, the convenience-first ethos of urgent care centers — and their unique positioning within retailers and at other convenient locations — make them uniquely suited to the philosophy.
Combined, these factors paint a somewhat paradoxical picture of the urgent care industry. Clinics must treat patients and provide excellent care, all while maintaining a convenient, retail-like experience. The small details are also critical, which means the communication must be seamless.
Cloud: The New Urgent Care Facility's Best Friend
Cloud will play a significant role for many new clinics attempting to overcome these hurdles, and the emergence of telemedicine goes to show how the right communications technology can help an up-and-coming facility. As with urgent care clinics, a combination of access, cost, and convenience has endeared patients to telemedicine, which has also seen a large measure of success.
That said, urgent care and telehealth services needn't be mutually exclusive. With little more than a dedicated space, a computer with a webcam, and a cloud-based video conferencing solution, clinics can greatly expand their reach and value proposition with telehealth services of their own. Clinics in rural areas, for example, can harness the technology to treat patients who may not be able to travel long distances for care. And locations looking to differentiate themselves from standard clinic fare by establishing deeper relationships with their clientele can use the cloud-based technology to perform routine follow-ups and other check-ins.
Remote and on-site visits — another critical offering for specialized facilities — also benefit from the inclusion of cloud. Instead of burdensome paper-based processes, staffers can use urgent care communication technology to communicate with their electronic health records (EHR) wherever they are. For example, sports medicine clinics might deploy cloud-based solutions to perform on-site physicals at the start of a high school's sporting season. And clinics offering remote flu shots could use similar technology to ensure more accurate charting and note taking, with records going directly to the EHR's database. There's no need for transcription and no risk of paper records being lost between the field site and the computer.
Ultimately, specific use cases are less important than the high-level benefits of communication technology in healthcare, such as portability, flexibility, and scalability. For organizations in need of solutions that do what they need wherever they are, cloud-based tools represent the best way to enhance reach without sacrificing functionality. That's true in the clinic, in the field, and even in patient homes.
Enhancing Communication Between Locations
Chain-based services have grown in popularity alongside urgent care clinics. Just as with urgent care, the qualities that make cloud technology beneficial to patients can also ease interoffice communication, an improvement that makes life easier for everyone in the healthcare system.
EHR portability — while undoubtedly critical to overall convenience — is just the beginning of the potential value of cloud technology in this area. Organizations that juggle staff among facilities can use cloud-based unified communication tools to assign persistent phone numbers, reducing confusion about reaching specific employees when they're away from their desk or usual office. Nurse practitioners — who must be overseen by physicians in a number of states — can use video conferencing tools to add crucial visual context when calling physicians for advice or second opinions.
Meanwhile, clinics of all sizes can reduce wait times and no-shows by automating appointment reminders and front-end systems, with cloud-based tools simplifying the technical infrastructure needed to make happen.
Urgent care communication technology sees vast improvement when cloud is involved from the onset. Whatever their specialty, new clinics should strongly consider integrating the technology with their planned slate of services — and established facilities should consider addressing convenience pain points with similar tools as soon as possible, too. It just might be the key to seamless communication in what is one of the most important times for healthcare across the globe.
Let Vonage Healthcare Solutions guide your journey to cloud-based convenience.