The name of his Manahawkin, New Jersey, practice sums up what John Kulin, DO, strives to offer his patients: Urgent Care Now. Frustrated by long wait times in hospital emergency departments, Dr. Kulin started his own urgent care center that builds customer service around patient-centered care. The model has been a success—Dr. Kulin has since opened two additional Urgent Care Now offices.
Named an innovator by Medical Economics for his approach to urgent care, Dr. Kulin told The DO why he became an entrepreneur and how data metrics can improve patient care. Following is an edited interview.
As a former emergency department medical director, what influenced your decision to change the way you practice medicine?
I was feeling frustrated. I thought we gave wonderful care to the emergency cases that came in, but there were some people waiting two, three, four-plus hours to get treated for relatively simple problems. We tried to improve wait times, but it never seemed to work in a hospital setting.
I decided to go out on my own to create a better way. “Believe in something better” is one of our taglines.
Are there any tools or resources that you’ve found particularly useful as you worked to build a startup urgent care center from the ground up?
A good technology platform is very advantageous. Our current electronic medical record system uses a patient portal that offers secure messaging with clinicians. Patients now have another way to ask questions besides making a phone call.
What’s an average day like for you?
I provide continual patient care throughout the day. There’s no down time; I don’t even take a lunch. Typically the center is open 10 hours a day, but our staff members always work eight-hour shifts. That leaves us with energy to spend time with family after work.
You’ve been recognized for developing a practice that emphasizes customer service and patient satisfaction. What’s the one change you implemented at your practice that you think has made the most difference?
We have implemented a number of changes to prioritize respecting our patients’ time and treating people in a timely fashion. For instance, the center is open nights and weekends when patients are available. Patients can’t always take a day off from work to get a sinus infection treated.
What advice would you give DOs on viewing practice operations from a patient’s perspective?
Don’t be afraid of data. The next advances in medicine won’t be in new surgical techniques or some new prescription; they will be in the management of patient data. I look for patterns across our patient population to help take care of individual patients in a better way. When we went live with our current EMR/practice management system, we began tracking the patient’s every move through the office to identify bottlenecks. Knowing and understanding this data is the strongest thing a practice can do.
For example, our patient tracking revealed that some physicians were spending too much time on documentation. In response, we hired scribes to help them with coding, billing and other administrative tasks. The scribes operate as an extension of the physician by focusing on the clerical side, and the physician gets more time to be a doctor.