Forget for a minute that the reason you go to an urgent care center is because of illness or an injury. Wouldn’t you like to have the same kind of customer service experience you get when ordering your grande mocha cappuccino from Starbucks?
Would it cheer you to hear “my pleasure” from the medical staff after they’re done treating you?
It’s that kind of experience that Velocity Urgent Care seeks to replicate in the services it offers. Just because it’s health care doesn’t mean that patients shouldn’t be as satisfied as possible with their care, says Alan Ayers, Velocity’s chief executive officer.
“Traditional doctors’ offices can be cold places,” Ayers says. “When you walk into our facilities, the welcoming experience is more like a hotel or retail store. We’re really trying to create a quality experience for health care.”
In December, Velocity acquired seven existing urgent-care centers in the region as a joint venture between Sentara Healthcare and Practice Velocity, an urgent-care management and billing company based in Illinois. Sentara’s urgent care centers in Hampton Roads, Va., all became branded as Velocity, while Velocity also opened several new locations. The company expected to have 11 centers open by the end of July, with 20 statewide by 2020.
The centers provide seven-day-a-week, walk-in medical services for illnesses and injuries that aren’t severe enough for an emergency room visit but still need immediate medical attention — think ailments such as flu, strep or bronchitis, or injuries such as cuts, sprains or bad sunburns. The centers also offer physicals, vaccinations, X-rays and basic lab tests.
True to its name, Velocity’s goal is to have patients in and out within 30 to 45 minutes.
“There are patients who need more time, and we certainly take the time for them,” Ayers says. “But urgent care is really about speed. It’s really valuing the patient’s time.”
To speed along the process, patients have the opportunity to go online at www.velocityuc.com/locations before their visit to reserve a spot. The website allows a patient to view wait times at various Velocity locations and then sign up for a time, giving the patient the convenience of waiting from home. The goal is that once the patient arrives, he or she will be seen within 15 minutes of the reserved time.
Traumas such as vehicle accidents or heart attacks — those are for emergency rooms. But if urgent care centers can treat lesser ailments (and at an estimated one-seventh of the cost of the emergency room), that allows ERs to focus on what they’re there for, Ayers says. Urgent-care centers can also help free up primary care providers so they can focus on managed care.
If, however, someone visits a Velocity Urgent Care and their needs can’t be met, the staff will make a referral to a Sentara specialist. “We’re a front door to health care,” Ayers says. “If we can’t treat them today, then we make sure we refer them to the facility that meets their needs. It’s really an access point to the best of Sentara Healthcare.”
All major insurance is accepted along with Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. For patients without insurance, there’s a self-pay rate sheet available, which brings greater transparency to the cost of care.
In a country where urgent care centers are steadily on the rise, with some 13,000 in existence today, Velocity wants to stand out from other urgent-care centers by providing that extra touch, Ayers says — to raise the bar in health care that’s historically been low.
In the waiting room, patients will find a digital board that shows where they are in line, as well as a hospitality station with coffee and bottled water. The medical staff is tasked with being committed, qualified team players who bring positive energy to the workplace.
“Urgent care is like getting sent to the penalty box,” Ayers says. “No one wants to get sick or hurt. It’s time away from work and life. When those instances do occur, we want to minimize the pain and get them back to work and life as quickly as possible.”