[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on how to optimize patient access.]
Stanford Health Care (SHC) is proving providers don’t need to have a large budget to make a big improvement on the patient experience. SHC has developed a model with better measures around access, patient experience, employee engagement, and financial outcomes—all at little or no cost.
Previously, we discussed five areas where SHC has learned how to create standardized work to improve patient access and quality outcomes. In Part II of this series, we share five more initiatives that add value to the access equation.
1. Re-examine workflows
We are all busy, but ask yourself if you are busy doing the right things. We want medical practice staff to be cross-trained and comfortable supporting each other. But cross-training should not come at the expense of having highly skilled people perform unnecessary clerical work.
All staff need to work at the top of their license, so the right work must be done at the right time by the right person. This may sound like a no-brainer, but some senior staff may be performing certain functions that could be reassigned to junior or clerical staff without any detriment to patient care.
At SHC, medical assistants are hired as flow managers. They collaborate with providers to pend orders and prescriptions, conduct significant prep work for patient appointments, review provider in-baskets in the EHR, and offer population health outreach. Health information management staff are hired to perform specific medical record functions, including the indexing and abstracting of medical record data. Registered nurses are hired to provide clinical services, such as infusion therapy, administering stress tests, or providing diabetic education.
This model allows all staff to work at the top of their scope and removes unnecessary tasks from their workload, thereby allowing them to fully focus their specific contributions to overall patient care.
2. Leverage technology
We live in a world surrounded by technology. How healthcare providers choose to use that technology makes all the difference in our ability to effectively, efficiently, and productively meets patient needs.
For example, a patient may use an application or Web browser to schedule a new or return visit. Automated reminders can be sent to the patient via text, email, or phone by pulling information from the EHR. Automatic waiting lists can text a patient if there’s a cancellation and allow them to be seen faster.
Prior to the patient’s appointment, his/her records can be retrieved while paper records are scanned and abstracted into the EHR. A dictation tool can help providers note information while order sets and pre-established questions, phrases, or texts, can simplify medical record documentation.
A newly created education team supports all providers with biannual information technology (IT) training. IT observes how providers and staff use the EHR, then teaches them how to fully utilize EHR capabilities, such as more efficient ways to document, navigate through the system, view available templates, use those templates better, retrieve and find information in various tabs, and attach patient education materials. Having the EHR connected to external lab and radiology companies also allows for quick, easy access to ancillary information, reports, and data.
SHC, in an effort to recognize its diverse patient population, provides a language line for any patient who opts to use it. This line provides a certified interpreter to help patients better communicate with their providers.
SHC’s most recent technology offering is providing telehealth appointments for certain patients, diagnoses, and insurance providers. We have found virtual visits to be a patient satisfier, especially considering the traffic congestion in the San Francisco Bay Area.
After patients have been treated, they can receive an electronic after visit summary in their online patient portal along with labs and other ancillary reports and/or data. Patients and providers can continue to communicate about nonurgent concerns between visits.
Ultimately, leveraging technology has allowed for better coordination and access to care and improved efficiency.