New York City-based urgent-care clinic CityMD has grown from one to 55 locations in five years, and is on track to reach 71 by year’s end. The company credits its rapid growth to its "patients first" mantra. From appointments to billing, CityMD focuses on cultivating trust and improving the patient experience.
If this sounds like a retail strategy, it’s because there are distinct similarities. At a time when many big thinkers are searching for ways to improve a healthcare industry that can often feel at best outdated and at worst ineffective, CityMD has focused on service, loyalty, and site locations as part of its growth plan—in much the way a store might look to add locations without sacrificing quality.
Technology and data have been crucial to the walk-in chain’s expansion. CityMD uses data collected on healthcare partners—doctors as well as hospitals—to find the perfect match for its patients’ follow-up care. The fast-growing company also plans to launch a digital telemedicine platform in September, another piece in the complex puzzle of making access to healthcare simple, ubiquitous, and fair.
"Everyone wants to build a healthcare business that’s as convenient for patients as Amazon is for customers," says Dr. Richard Park, CityMD’s CEO and founder, who grew up pitching in at his family’s varied retail businesses and went on to become an ER doctor. "You can only do that if you’re aligned properly with patients and their needs."
We talked to Dr. Park about how technology supports CityMD’s mission.
What role does technology play in your growth strategy?
Our mission is to "serve kindness" to as many patients as possible, so the ability to achieve scale is part of our mission. About two years ago, we realized, "Wow, we’re not able to handle the stress of rapid growth." We had 20 clinics, and we needed automation and systems tools—in other words, technology—to grow properly.
How does technology improve the patient experience?
There’s a term called NPS, or Net Promoter Score, that we build based on results from patient surveys. We ask questions such as, "Do you recommend CityMD to your family?" We send out more than 25,000 surveys a week to generate scores on our physicians and healthcare providers. We bring in the doctors who scored in the bottom 20 percent. In a simulation room at our service center, we conduct mock exams with an actor serving as the patient. We simulate 15 cases, with real doctors observing what happens, to offer each one of those physicians feedback.
There’s a camera recording the simulated exams so physicians can see what they look like and hear how they sound while taking care of patients. The doctors often aren’t even aware of poor eye contact, or that they had their hand on the door while talking to patients. Those are the kinds of things that lead to poor patient satisfaction.
Every doctor needs to measure the quality of the service being provided, fix problems, re-measure to ensure improvement, and continue to track results. There’s always a bottom 20 percent, and always ways to do better. We have 250 physicians in our network currently, and we’re constantly adding new doctors. Technology enables us to provide a consistent, high level of care as we grow.
See also: Dr. Richard Park On Sustaining A Mission
Recently, you instituted a new tech-enabled referral system. How does it work?
We have a customer relationship management system layered on top of our electronic medical record system. That allows us to marry those files to generate a referral. We’ll talk to the patient and ask, "What do you need? When are you available?" Then we’ll call the doctor’s office to make sure they understand what the patient needs and that the process is seamless—starting with making sure the doctor is in network with the patient’s insurance and the schedules match.
The process used to be very manual, but now the referrals are done through a tech platform. That leads to automation, which leads to better data and improvement of the process—a virtuous circle. We now know if the specialist referral was available in a timely manner and if the patient showed up for the appointment. And, again, we send surveys to patients because the information they provide about their experiences is vital to improvement.
Looking at the big picture, how do these kinds of systems improve access to effective healthcare?
We want to free the doctor to do what he or she is supposed to do: Focus on the patient. There are many ways to apply technology to make that possible. For example, using medical scribes [someone recording notes during appointments] helps doctors maintain eye contact with patients.
We also help them by doing all the "paperwork." We have a unified platform for our financial, HR, and talent management systems, which has established important processes and helps us manage all of that information in one place. We have a call center, a care coordination team, and a consumer relationship manager who take care of the back-end responsibilities. Our call center has made 2.2 million clinical phone calls: "Did John go to the cardiologist like he was supposed to? Does he know about his abnormal lab results?"
Part of the problem with the traditional healthcare system is that we’re whittling away the physician’s will with paperwork. This is a huge problem that leads to an unsatisfying experience for the patient. We don’t claim to be the complete solution, but we’re a part of it. Primary urgent care has to adapt and change to be an effective part of the future.
This article was created and commissioned by Workday, and the views expressed are their own.