What is the key to running a successful practice? Daniel Brown, MD of Family
Medicine Associates of South Attleboro (FMASA) says, "When you find
something that works really, really well, you stick with it." That's what Brown
and his colleagues did when they signed on with athenahealth in 2005, and
they haven't looked back since.
The large family practice located near Boston, MA, started with
athenaCollector, a cloud-based medical billing and practice management
service; later added athenaClinicals, a flexible, Meaningful Use-certified electronic
health record (EHR) service; and, most recently, added athenaCommunicator,
an on-demand, automated, and live communication service that supports and
streamlines patient-physician interactions outside the exam room.
They are so pleased with the suite of services and products offered by
athenahealth, Brown jokes: "If athenahealth came out with a new brand of
coffee next week, we would all start drinking it!"
One reason for the practice's allegiance to athenahealth's model is that all of
its fully-integrated services are focused on driving revenue into the practice.
Brown says that factor alone is enough to make the athenahealth/FMASA
relationship a long-term one.
Only One Biller for the 13-Provider Practice
After implementing athenaCollector, Brown reports "claim denials plummeted
to less than 3% from double digits. Days in Accounts Receivable also dropped—from more than 60 days to approximately 30 days."* The most telling
metric, Brown says, is the provider to biller ratio. With 13 providers, the
practice only employs one biller. In fact, athenaCollector is so user-friendly
that he and one other physician do their own medical billing. That cost saving alone,
he says, has had an enormous impact on lowering overhead.
User-friendly, Web-based EHR Enjoys 100% Utilization Rate
When the practice took the next step and implemented athenaClinicals
as its EHR service, the results were just as impressive. Also bottom-line
focused, athenaClinicals has minimal start-up costs and there's no hardware
or software to install or upgrade, which makes it a low-investment, high-return
clinical solution. Brown reports that he and his colleagues have found
the EHR to be so flexible and user-friendly that the practice has
achieved a 100% utilization rate.
Vastly Improved Patient Communications Saves Time and Money
With these positive athenahealth experiences under their belt, Brown
says the practice's next challenge was to get a better handle on patient
communications, which consumed an enormous amount of staff time. "We were looking for a better way to communicate with patients, so in the
summer of 2009, when athenahealth was looking to pilot test its newest
service, athenaCommunicator, we jumped on board."
The results have been dramatic, Brown reports. "The staff were
previously spending 4 to 6 hours a day making and returning calls.
athenaCommunicator has freed up an enormous amount of staff time."
In the past six months the new service has delivered on average 2,500
reminder calls a month about scheduled appointments, which can include
patient-specific instructions. Brown estimates that the practice is saving
approximately $1,250 a month on the cost of making reminder calls alone,
not including the cost savings associated with the decreased number of noshows,
which is now below 4%.**
Patients Pleased with Automated Lab Results, Reminder Calls
athenaCommunicator's ResultsCallSM is also saving the practice time and
money by delivering lab results either directly by phone or by prompting
patients to retrieve the information from practice's new secure web portal.
In January 2010 alone, it delivered more than 1,000 results.
Dr. Brown is certain that the number of patients who use the practice's
portal will continue to grow. In six months, the practice has collected
email addresses for nearly 27% of its active patient base. Nearly 10% have
registered on the portal which they can use to do such things as update
demographics, request routine information, and retrieve lab results. Brown
estimates that the decreasing demand on staff time is on track to save
the practice nearly $20,000 this year, plus save nearly $15,000 a year on
postage, patient statements, and other patient communications.**
But the best thing, Brown says, has been the reaction of his patients.
"The satisfaction rate is very high. Patients are able to interact with our
practice more easily, plus they are getting their lab results quicker and they
* These results reflect the experience of this particular practice and are not necessarily what every
athenahealth client should expect. In Q4 2009 athenahealth average client Days in Accounts
Receivable (DAR) was 38.5 days, average client First Pass Resolve Rate was 93.5%, and average
increase in collections was 6.5%.
** athenaCommunicator data was gathered during our beta testing period, prior to full release to the