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Creative Cash Flow Solutions: The Rise of the Walk-In Model During COVID-19

Apr 6, 2020 3:11:12 PM

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the need for medical practices to stay flexible is paramount. Many states have already restricted elective procedures and on-site appointments, and for those in specialty care, these limitations can create a serious cash flow strain. The practices that will survive this unprecedented set of circumstances and thrive in the period that follows will be the ones that adopt a more creative and agile approach to servicing patients when traditional models aren’t an option.

What does that look like? In some cases, more and more practices are opening their own temporary walk-in clinics to maintain critical cash flow. For example, a Clearwave customer in Florida transitioned their orthopedic practice from an “appointment only” model to a walk-in “treatment now” model. The service offers injured patients an option for immediate emergency care outside of the hospital or traditional urgent care center environment, which is under massive strain as these facilities treat the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Such a shift can be an especially impactful, because it helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in addition to keeping practices afloat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to keep healthcare personnel safe from the virus is in short supply. Doctors and nurses, including those in emergency rooms, simply do not have the tools they need. By opening walk-in clinics such as the customer in Florida, practices can divert patients who may need emergency orthopedic care or have suffered a serious eye injury to a temporary walk-in environment where they can be seen immediately rather than wait in a hospital emergency room that may be overwhelmed and inundated with potential COVID-19 cases.

Making the Switch to Walk-In Services

While the task of moving from appointment-only services to a walk-in model may seem daunting, there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to ensure a seamless transition. Below are several tips to help practices ensure the shift is seamless and successful.

1. Develop the necessary communications and implement marketing tools to let patients know your practice is now accepting walk-ins:

  • Build a landing page on your website as a platform to let patients know walk-in care is an option and explain why it would benefit them over visiting a hospital or urgent care facility. You can also post important arrival information, such as the type of data that will be collected at the time of the visit.
  • Make sure patients are aware of the difference between preventative care and the urgent-care services that will be offered during a walk-in visit. For example, help them understand that the service is designed to help with the triage and treatment of an injured or emergency patient right now.
2. When it comes to adapting your office workflow to a walk-in model, leverage electronic self-check-in to expedite and simplify the administrative portion of the visit.

  • For example, Clearwave can reconfigure new or existing kiosks and tablets to check in walk-in patients as they arrive without prior notice, in addition to those already scheduled.
  • Question workflow can be automatically adapted to the specific walk-in patient information. For example, if it’s a recurring patient requiring immediate urgent care, your practice will have their health history on file and that information can auto-populate a check-in form. However, if the walk-in patient is new to the practice, the kiosk or tablet would collect pertinent details like medical history, contact information, etc.
3. From a staffing perspective, decide how to administratively staff for walk-in appointments, and then have a plan in place and update schedules as necessary. Do you have an on-call physician? If not, you might consider creating a rotation schedule for walk-in coverage so, someone is ready to respond at all times.

A Creative Solution

Opening a walk-in clinic can go a long way towards bolstering cash flow. It can also help to reduce the burden on hospitals and urgent-care facilities experiencing a surge in activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearwave can help practices quickly establish and implement a successful walk-in service by simply reconfiguring kiosks to aid in the administrative process. The walk-in solution may be temporary, but it will go a long way in helping you provide the best quality care to your patients and preserving your practice’s long-term viability and success.

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