NMC Commentary

Can Urgent Care & Lab Patients Check Access Times Online?

Yes!  We are very pleased to extend the ability to check access times online to the patients of our Outpatient Lab as well as our Urgent Care patients now that Northwestern Urgent Care and the Northwestern Outpatient Laboratory have relocated into their efficient, flexible new space in the Medical Office Building at the front of NMC’s campus on Fairfield Street.

We heard from patients of our walk-in services that it would be more convenient for them if they could know the current access times before they came to campus.  Knowing the access time would allow them to better plan their other activities and for some, offered the chance to wait at home if there were going to be a wait for a walk-in service.  In response to that feedback, we instituted an online system (known as Clockwise) that patients can access through the NMC website (www.northwesternmedicalcenter.org) or the Northwestern Urgent Care website (www.northwesternurgentcare.com).  Through this system, you can see what the current time to the next opening is for Northwestern Urgent Care’s location in the Medical Office Building in St. Albans as well as their location on Route 7 in Georgia. We have just recently extended this ability to the Outpatient Laboratory’s services, so you can now visit the Laboratory’s section of the NMC website (https://www.northwesternmedicalcenter.org/services/laboratory/) and see what the current time to the next opening is for blood draws, etc. These sites are accessible on your computer, your tablet, and your smart-phone – so you can get the information you need from anywhere you have an internet connection. Patients are using this ability to best time their arrival for these walk-in services. Once patients arrive at Northwestern Urgent Care or the Northwestern Outpatient Lab at the new Medical Office Building at NMC in St. Albans or at the Northwestern Urgent Care location in Georgia, they can see this timing information on the large wall-mounted monitors. When patients arrive, they are entered into the system and the queue of ‘who is next’ and the estimated time shows on the monitors.  As an added feature of the system, patients can actually use their own device and click the ‘reserve your spot in line’ button on the website before arriving and get an estimated time when they will be seen. Patients are using this to let them better target their visits within other errands and minimize their time before being seen.  When they arrive, they are already in the queue to be seen at the time they set online, with other walk-ins filling in around them.  This has proven to be appreciated and convenient for the patients who use it.

It is important to understand that unforeseen medical situations can arise within clinical settings such as Urgent Care.  It can happen that a patient’s medical condition was more serious than they anticipated or even escalates while being seen, which can impact the timing of the patients who are next in the queue to be seen. When this occurs, our staff must focus on meeting that patient’s needs and getting them to the right care (such as the Emergency Department) in a timely manner.  If you are looking at the online timing system on your device or on our wall monitors and see that expected timing changes abruptly, it may well be that another patient needed more care and attention than typically expected.

In an effort to provide similar insight into the timing of being seen, the physician practice portion of the Northwestern Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation Center in the new Medical Office Building is using one of the large monitors to inform scheduled patients of how their provider’s day is progressing.

While we strive to see every walk-in patient on a timely basis and every scheduled patient at their scheduled time, complications can impact timeliness. We have found our patients are understanding that complications can happen and very receptive to updates from our staff and the information shared through our online systems. Our staff is committed to keeping our patients informed and comfortable in advance of being seen.  If you have any questions when you are at one of our practices or departments, please ask a staff member. We value your time and understand that doing our best to keep you informed is part of our mission to provide exceptional care.  Thank you for entrusting your care to us!

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer