Urgent care centers are among one of the services that were put in high demand during the recent pandemic. These urgent care clinics were quickly turned into vaccination centers to foster the administration of vaccines within the local community.
Northwest Specialty Hospital is among one of those urgent care service providers that along with its medically necessary services also conducted vaccination drives to combat the COVID-19 virus.
Located in beautiful North Idaho, Northwest Specialty Hospital is a multi-specialty facility with a range of specialties including Endoscopy, Family Medicine, Imaging, Occupational Medicine, etc.
In the following interview, Dr. Kirk Hjeltness, the Medical Director of Northwest Specialty Hospital talks about the foundational values of the hospital and how it is effectively providing healthcare services to the community.
Please brief our audience about Northwest Specialty Hospital, its values, mission, and the key aspects that make it a leader in providing quality urgent care services.
Northwest Urgent Care serves the community of North Idaho, a service of Northwest Specialty Hospital, a physician-owned and operated healthcare organization. Our urgent care also serves as a point of entry to our health system and a vital resource for those who don’t currently have a primary care provider.
We act as a bridge for those with a primary care provider who is unable to get an appointment in a timely manner and a conduit for facilitating longer-term care through our own health system.
Northwest Urgent Care is committed to providing the highest quality health care to all in a caring, compassionate, and professional environment. It has been independently rated one of the best urgent cares in the state and the best urgent care in North Idaho for multiple consecutive years. We currently have the highest and most Google reviews compared to any urgent care in our area.
Northwest Specialty Hospital as an organization has been recognized nationally by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as one of the top 10% of hospitals in the nation and has received the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for quality of care we provide. We have also been consistently ranked as one of the best places to work in the Inland Northwest.
What are the services offered by Northwest Specialty Hospital that give it a leading edge from the competition?
Northwest Urgent Care puts patients first, focusing on the quality of their care and listening to feedback from the public on the ways in which we can improve our service to them. We also have on-site access to diagnostic testing such as labs and imaging, which allows for better coordination of care compared to many other urgent care clinics.
In addition, we have a unique organizational structure that allows us access to surgical and medical specialists in the event that we need immediate consultation from the specialist regarding patient care and treatment plans.
What is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the global healthcare sector, and what challenges did you face during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns?
The pandemic has had an indelible impact on the global healthcare sector ranging from supply chain management challenges, diminished utilization of non-COVID-related care, and the stress on healthcare professionals themselves. Yet, with so many challenges, we came together to provide our community with one of the state’s largest distribution of vaccines and continue to work together through the pandemic.
We recently opened a clinic for vaccine booster administration and a clinic with monoclonal anti-body infusions to assist all residents of our local area get the help they need. This is particularly significant because we are privately owned and operated and not a community access hospital supported by local tax dollars.
With constant development in medical technologies, in your opinion, what could be the future of urgent care services?
The mandatory lockdown forced so many of us in our community to adopt new ways of communicating. Prior to COVID-19, the demand for telehealth appointments was almost non-existent in our area. COVID-19 forced many of us out of those comfort zones, and during that process, we have also learned how to make it easier for the general public to use.
As these systems become more advanced, I expect to see higher national utilization of telehealth and telemedicine services for urgent care and routine wellness checks.
As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding healthcare professionals aspiring to venture into the healthcare industry?
- Build a great team and inspire them to always work towards a common goal.
- Listen to your patients, to your team members, and your community.
- Learn from the successes and failures of others within the industry.
How do you envision scaling Northwest Specialty Hospital’s operations and offerings in the future?
We are constantly looking at ways to improve our services by making them more efficient while making patients feel that they weren’t rushed through. The first step is to standardize policies and procedures, clearly define our mission, vision, and values, and establish a strong organizational culture of excellence and compassion.
Operationally we are looking at new ways to streamline care by assigning a level of complexity to each case and matching the medical professional best suited to diagnose and treat that patient’s condition. By adopting this approach, we believe that we can offer our patients the best care possible in a more efficient manner.
About the Leader
Dr. Kirk Hjeltness is the Medical Director for Northwest Urgent Care. He is a United States Air Force veteran with extensive experience as an emergency room attending physician at Fairchild Air Force Base’s 92nd Strategic Air Command. He is the former Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of North Idaho Immediate Care Centers with more than 30 years of experience as a provider of urgent care services.