Creating an Urgent Care Center That Redefines Primary Care Service Delivery

Hospitals are looking beyond inpatient care to outpatient services, building healthcare facilities close to where patients live. Black Hills Surgical Hospital in Rapid City, S.D., opened a new urgent care center in July to expand into the primary care space and provide patients with convenient, affordable quality care. Larry Teuber, MD, one of the physician owners of Black Hills Surgical Hospital, explains how the urgent care center redefines the delivery of primary care.

Changing the healthcare experience

"Our central idea was to change the experience that patients had when they went to primary care [facilities]," Dr. Teuber says. To improve patients' experience, the hospital examined the problems with the existing primary care system, and brainstormed ways to eliminate those problems. The hospital looked at primary care from the points of view of multiple healthcare consumers, including patients, physicians and payors. Black Hills Surgical Hospital identified the following top problems:

1.    Poor service.
2.    Dirty or aged physical plants.
3.    Inconvenient hours
4.    Hassle of scheduling appointments.
5.    Inconvenient locations.

These top issues gave the hospital a starting point for how to redesign primary care. To ensure quality of service, the hospital staffed the urgent care center with talented physicians and clinicians committed to quality care.

The hospital addressed physical plant issues by creating a clean, comfortable environment and equipping the facility with new technology. "The physical plant looks like a cross between a Verizon, a Starbucks and a nice bistro," Dr. Teuber says. The lobby features a high-definition TV, has photos of all the providers and shows the prices of all the services. The exam rooms have a 32-inch screen that physicians can use to show patients medical images. "There's a huge amount of interactivity between provider and patient so [he or she] can understand what the problem is," Dr. Teuber says.

To eliminate the problem of inconvenient hours, the urgent care center is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Black Hills Surgical Hospital eliminated the hassle of scheduling by offering walk-in appointments. Patients can schedule appointments either online or by calling, and now also have the flexibility of coming in without making an appointment. Finally, Black Hills Surgical Hospital ensured the location would be convenient by choosing retail locations, such as shopping centers that have high traffic and easy access from the road. The hospital plans to open two additional urgent care centers in the next seven to 10 months, according to Dr. Teuber.

By addressing each of the major complaints of primary care, Black Hills Surgical Hospital created a new delivery of care model that offers convenient, inexpensive care to patients.

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