Urgent care patients can be a tough crowd to please.
For starters, they’re usually visiting an urgent care center for an illness or injury and not in the best of spirits. And, they’re often forking over a high copayment to receive episodic care from a provider with whom they have no relationship.
Vituity understands urgent care is a retail business. People have a choice about which clinic to visit. So, if a patient’s experience doesn’t meet their expectations, they vote with their feet and take their business elsewhere the next time they need help fast.
While the patient experience should be a high priority across all care settings, urgent care clinics face a unique set of challenges when it comes to fostering loyalty. Anything a clinic can do to improve the patient experience contributes significantly to its success.
As Associate Vice President of Ambulatory and Urgent Care for Vituity, I’ve worked at Saddleback Family and Urgent Care in Southern California for more than 25 years, caring for patients with acute injuries and illnesses.
Saddleback Family and Urgent Care has served the area for more than 30 years and is wholly owned by Vituity. Collectively, our two clinics care for more than 2,500 patients per month and register over 30,000 visits annually.
Today, I’ll share our efforts to improve the patient experience at our two clinics with the implementation of a real-time patient satisfaction survey.
As a patient experience-driven organization, Vituity works very hard to put the patient at the center of everything we do. That orientation is critical to our success.
Here at Saddleback, our focus on the patient experience is no different. We had previously tried various methods of collecting patient experience information. Most recently, we had been mailing paper surveys to patients after their visits. But there was a long lag time between the visit and receiving the survey, so response rates were extremely low – less than 5 percent. That made it tough to to collect meaningful, actionable feedback.
In 2016, we implemented a real-time patient satisfaction survey. We're one of several Vituity practices who piloted this program.
Our patients are invited via email or text to respond to a simple 10-question survey. The survey is sent immediately following the visit via a HIPAA-compliant data feed.
The survey requires short, simple responses and includes a section for patient comments. We have the ability to customize the questions to gather insights that are important to our clinics. For Saddleback, we have questions that focus specifically on overall wait time and time-to-provider because we’d recently implemented measures to improve in these areas. The customized questions allow us to monitor our quality improvement initiatives, enhance our care processes, and evaluate success.
Within a year of implementing the new survey, our response rate has increased from less than 5 percent to over 25 percent due to the brief, targeted nature of the survey. With immediate access to patient insights and analytics, our team checks the dashboard daily. That is the beauty of the tool. When a patient has a complaint or a concern, we can do immediate service recovery and completely change the perception of their experience.
We’ve also seen an upward trend in patient satisfaction and expect to see continued long-term improvement as a result of our quality improvement initiatives.
Analytics aside, we know we are making a difference in our patients’ experiences. At least half of our patients use the comments section to share a note about the staff, the depth of knowledge of our providers, our online check-in tool, and more.
We’re using these comments to shape provider behavior and motivate staff. It’s hard working in the trenches, particularly in the front office where nobody loves to come in and fill out a bunch of paperwork and then wait to be seen. Seeing those positive comments helps staff and providers understand that what they do makes a real difference in how patients perceive their experience.
Front desk and the doctor on staff were excellent. The doctor was extremely professional and empathetic. This was one of my best experiences in an urgent care clinic ever. The wait was a bit long, but they only had one doctor on staff and he was amazing!!! Good job!!! They should be a model to other urgent care providers!!!
I was very impressed by the amount of time given and the depth of knowledge shown by the health care provider.
Originally published March 20, 2017. Last updated Jan. 25, 2019.