By Rhiannon Maier, Director of Quality and Data, First Care Clinic
Embracing the value of preparedness
The push to deliver greater value is prompting healthcare organizations to closely examine their clinical and financial processes in search of ways to boost efficiency, improve accuracy, and elevate the patient experience. With this in mind, First Care Clinic, a federally qualified health center and level 3 patient centered medical home located in rural Kansas, set out to retool one of its critical processes — the patient care visit.
Leveraging its EHR, the organization developed a data-driven strategy that ensures clinical and administrative teams are equipped with the information they need to collaboratively identify patient health and financial needs ahead of a visit. This proactive planning allows staff to adequately prepare for the encounter before the patient arrives onsite, setting the stage for a productive visit and improved clinical and financial outcomes.
A Day In The Life Of A Rural Clinic
Rural health organizations operate with limited resources, yet they are called on to deliver the highest quality services to patient populations that are often clinically, demographically, and geographically diverse. In fact, it is not uncommon for a patient with multiple chronic conditions to drive up to 60 miles for an appointment. As such, it is paramount these organizations plan for the time the patient is at the facility. If they don’t, they may miss an opportunity to deliver necessary care and could negatively impact patient satisfaction.
Consider the following scenario — one that may occur all too frequently in many healthcare settings. A patient with a chronic condition drives up to an hour for an annual care visit at a rural clinic. Upon arriving, the registration process is delayed due to missing insurance coverage information. Once that’s resolved, the patient sits in the waiting room an additional 30 minutes due to provider bottlenecks that have built up during the day. When the individual is finally ushered back to see the provider, the doctor determines tests and lab work are needed, further delaying the visit. After the encounter, the patient returns home only to realize that a preventive screening or prescription refill was overlooked. The chances the patient will set aside his or her frustration and return to the facility to get the appropriate preventive care are slim. Not only that, the individual may think twice about going back to the facility next year.
The goal of First Care Clinic’s process improvement program was to reduce the chances of poorly-planned visits like the one described above. With patients often seeing multiple providers on the same day — the organization houses medical care, mental health services, and dentistry under one roof — it was especially important to limit as many care delays and errors as possible.
Re-Envisioning The Process
First Care Clinic leverages NextGen Healthcare’s EHR technology, which plays an essential role in optimizing onsite patient interactions. The strategy begins with a morning huddle where participants from all departments — clinical and clerical — come together to plan the visits of the patients the organization is treating that day.
Data is pulled from the EHR, providing an overview of the patients’ diagnoses and conditions, what treatments and tests are required, and which providers and payers are involved. Additionally, the system has the ability to incorporate mental and dental health information into a patient’s record, ensuring providers receive a full picture of treatment history. Registration and financial data is also pulled to limit information gaps between registration personnel and patients.
Leveraging this comprehensive data, the team designs a specific workflow for each patient which facilitates a thorough visit and makes the best use of available time. For instance, if a patient is self-pay, the front office team builds a financial consult into the visit and researches potential financial aid options ahead of time, if needed. Likewise, if a clinician is delayed, having lab orders or requested education topics prepared ahead of time allows staff to continue with the provider’s recommendations while he or she is completing other tasks. This allows the patient to continue to receive care without delay, keeping the visit time productive. If the patient needs a preventive screening or immunization, that is also built into the schedule.
This level of preparation ensures key care elements are not overlooked, and at the same time heightens the patient experience. Information is shared in real time between departments during the encounter, further fostering a holistic, coordinated approach to care delivery.
A Well-Planned Visit Provides A Strong Care Foundation
Having the right technological infrastructure and vendor relationship support in place has proved invaluable to First Care Clinic as they revamp their care visits. Although each visit is unique and even the best laid plans can change, the team’s ability to optimize EHR data allows them to lay the groundwork for better quality outcomes, all the while increasing efficiency and improving patient satisfaction.