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Community Enables Providers to Collaborate and Share on Patient Portal Adoption & Charting Efficiencies

by Allison Dahl, Product Operations Manager

Here at athenahealth, the mantra of Teach and Learn has become infused in everything we do, and our clients are contributing to this education right along with us. With such a diverse client base — independent physicians, specialists, group practices, hospitals, large health systems, community health centers — we sometimes see different solutions to the same challenge. What if these experiences and approaches could be shared — talk about a real instance of teaching and learning.

This past spring we launched an online community (on the cloud, of course) for physicians, practice managers, nurses, you name it, to share their hurdles and triumphs with one another. We call it, simply, the athenahealth Community, and it has given us a unique view into how physicians and practice managers are succeeding. Today, I wanted to share some particular experiences that clients have shared within the Community regarding how to be most efficient with charting and in promoting adoption of our patient portal.

Charting efficiencies
One of the Community’s first discussions came from one practice asking how other providers are able to successfully chart in real time. This remains an active thread with new responses and contributors daily, and has over 1,300 views.

As expected, there were a number of ways practices were configuring and setting up athenahealth in order to allow for the most efficient charting possible. With almost 150 replies, providers weighed in on the workflows that they implement to ensure providers don’t have to spend hours every evening completing documentation:

  • “We have fine tuned athenaClinicals with the creation of Encounter Plans, Assessment and Discussion templates, diagnosis and order quick picks to the point that we have no issues at all in finishing our notes at the time of encounters. Using previous encounters is a great way to document a new visit because it is so easy to follow up on issues that existed in the prior patient visit to be sure they are all resolved - an important thing when multiple practitioners see the same patient population.”
  • “We have our medical assistants review the patient's chart, quality measures, PMFSH and preorder routine colonoscopies, mammos, etc. prior to the physician entering the room. Most of my documentation is the current illness as the rest is mostly reviewed for me or entered as a quick pick.”
  • “While our provider examines the patient, he speaks his significant findings out loud and the ‘scribe’ or medical assistant documents it in the EHR. All the provider has to do is review and document a small amount of data.”
  • “We have our patients fill out all their forms online, through the portal. That includes signatures on clinic policies, then the health history, medications, allergies, social history, family history, etc. These forms are very easy to customize and…the information is pulled into the current encounter through the "Reconciliation" action. It's one of the huge advantages of using Athena.”

Patient portal adoption
Another post within the Community began with a practice manager from South Carolina who attended our annual User Conference in May. She learned strategies for patient portal adoption, created a PowerPoint presentation to teach her front desk staff these strategies and tools, and shared this document in the Community. She also described how she incentivized her team with gift cards for whichever staff member signs the most patients up during a one-month period! Her presentation included:

  • Why portal adoption is important to the practice for both maintaining patient relationships and helping meet Meaningful Use requirements
  • Capabilities and features of the patient portal
  • Each department’s role in portal adoption, including front desk staff at check in, clinical staff, and front desk staff at check out
  • How to target resistant patients: if patients call in regarding a service available through the portal, walk them through registration over the phone

She received a number of comments with positive feedback from other practice managers on her approach, many mentioning that they planned to adapt her presentation for their own use!

Additional benefits of the Community include the ability for users to find other practices similar to their own based on specialty, region, or type of facility, and then being able to connect in Community or offline with those practices. We’ve also seen clients sharing and collaborating on documents they’ve created to make their processes even more efficient, from clinical encounter templates to administrative forms and letters such as school forms and patient records release letters.

This is just a flavor of the activity going on within this new forum, which continues to expand as clients rely on it as the go-to place for support and collaboration. As our network of athenahealth practices grow (more than 55,000 providers at this writing), so too does the collective experience on the Community. It’s our way to bring the teaching and learning approach to our clients’ environment, so they can tackle challenges and continue providing the best health care possible.

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