New program gets people in and out in under an hour
It's cold and flu season. And if you have the flu, you feel miserable and you may feel frustrated too. You want to see your doctor, but there are no appointments available until next week. So what can you do? Patient concerns like this prompted doctors at University of Maryland Family Medicine to re-think their walk-in program. They wanted to make their program more responsive to patient needs, so they created QWIC: Quality Walk-In Center.
"Most doctors have appointment books that are almost full," says Richard Colgan, M.D., medical director of University Family Medicine and assistant professor of Family Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Day-of calls sometimes have to be squeezed-in, at the inconvenience of the staff and sometimes the patient.
QWIC takes a new approach to day-of calls and walk-ins, actually encouraging them and planning for them. The family medicine team found that up to a quarter of their patients were walk-ins, so instead of just trying to deal with this problem, the doctors decided to embrace it.
"Our goal is to see patients in less than 50 minutes, with the majority of them getting out sooner than that, adds Dr. Colgan.
Right now we're averaging about 45 minutes per visit, says Linda Michalski, R.N., clinical support manager for QWIC. That's 45 minutes from when the patient walks into the office to when he or she leaves after seeing the doctor.
As a part of QWIC, the practice doubled the number of rooms available for walk-in patients and added staff to support the increase in patients. Two full-time physicians staff QWIC Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., including lunchtime. The family medicine offices were also remodeled -- QWIC patients now have their own check-in area, cutting down on wait time.
University Family Medicine launched QWIC in September; and so far patients like it. I was in the waiting room for only about 10 minutes, says Amy Hampton, a recent patient and a student at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. The doctor was phenomenal, and I was out the door just 45 minutes from when I walked in.
Hampton also says in the past, she had spent more than three hours in a doctor's office for a similar visit. I was really impressed with the speed of QWIC, she says.
An increasing number of people are taking advantage of QWIC. Just over a year ago, the University of Maryland Family Medicine practice saw about 300 walk-in patients a month. With QWIC, that number has nearly doubled.
While QWIC handles day-of illness, Dr. Colgan says it doesn't replace the emergency department for serious, urgent problems. It is intended for the person who wakes up with a sore throat or cough and can't get in to see his or her doctor, or the person who works nearby who develops a rash, but can't get a dermatologist appointment for several weeks. And QWIC should not replace a person's family physician.
We feel primary care is best provided through an ongoing relationship between a patient and their personal physician, says Dr. Colgan.
The family medicine staff can deal with the majority of illnesses coming to QWIC; plus, doctors can quickly coordinate referrals to medical specialists at the University of Maryland Medical Center. University Family Medicine offers another advantage: a downtown location. With offices at 29 S. Paca Street, the QWIC program works well for downtown workers who need to see a doctor.
For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538 or click here to make an appointment.