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CloudView blog

Ideas and insights to help health care providers stay informed and profitable in today's challenging health care environment.

Behind the Scenes: Getting Clients Live and Keeping Them Healthy

by Ed Park, COO

Visitors to athenahealth headquarters during the second half of 2013 probably noticed an ambitious construction project spanning the entire first floor of our 311 Arsenal Street building—the same space where wartime artillery was once manufactured as far back as the Civil War. Facilities teams were developing our five new client “nerve centers,” interconnected work areas dedicated to helping our clients go live on athenahealth and stay successful in the months and years to come.

In these now-completed, glass-walled spaces, our expert teams utilize the full potential of the cloud to keep a constant check on the well-being of our clients. The open visibility we use to monitor client performance each day also helps us get new practices and health systems onto our network (athenaNet), and operating in tip-top shape.

Why? Better, Faster, Cheaper
Our nerve centers represent all the lessons we’ve learned over the years (and we continue to refine that learning). Through a mass standardization of processes, we can effectively identify the areas of greatest need and pinpoint resources to address them—all at a fraction of the cost of the “big box systems” that aren’t designed to scale easily or respond to change. Here’s how we do it:

Enabling standardization: We’ve analyzed and reverse-engineered best practice templates for our athenaCollector® practice services, and for 88 different specialties on our athenaClinicals® EMR.

Clients find these templates to be great on-boarding “starter kits” when they join the network. The athenaCare support team will customize workflows over time, but this standardization empowers two important facets of our work: 1) Everyone gets out of the gate on a common platform; 2) We can capture standard data from across the network, from a common starting point. More learning, more data, greater and faster improvements.

Efficient use of resources: When it comes to an EMR, not all providers are created equal. Some need practically no assistance to get started, while others benefit from extra help. We can help target those who need a helping hand.

With our nationwide benchmarking, we get a good sense of what’s working and what’s not, so we can calibrate as needed when new providers come onto the system—for an entire practice or an individual physician.

Lower cost: Since we can scale our operations regardless of practice size, we operate with cost efficiencies that aren’t common in the health IT industry. Our processes are applied to every organization, from single-provider practices to a recent, 1000-provider go-live that was accomplished in one day.

Performance “On Display”
As you walk by the three nerve centers reserved for client launches, you can’t miss each room’s visual lifeblood: A wall of video displays—70” center screens flanked by 55” video “wings”—that keep athenistas apprised of practice preparation and performance, and any issues that may arise.

Once you sense the vibe and energy of our teams, and the big, beautiful displays overhead, there’s no doubt you’re in “Nerve Center HQ.” Team members all share the same information, with a shared accountability to each client. Of course, we’re not the only ones with this level of visibility; our clients share it, too.

We all know that transitioning to new health IT services is intimidating, to say the least. Any services provider worth its salt is obligated to ease that transition. Here’s what each nerve center team is doing across our new first floor, one suite at a time:

Pre-Live Nerve Center:
In our first nerve center, we ensure that providers are taking the necessary steps to prepare for Go Live. We chart how practices are progressing with their online learning schedule and keep tabs on particular elements such as configuring provider signatures for orders.

Go-Live Nerve Center:
Next door, this center monitors the activity of newly added practices and helps drive their performance. How well are they completing patient check-in tasks, like scanning insurance cards and obtaining patient e-mail? How quickly are they closing encounters? We keep track and help them get it right.

Ramp-Up Nerve Center:
After the Go-Live period, it’s important that practice leadership understand how to really optimize performance. In this center, our teams identify room for improvement across metrics like documentation time per encounter and charge entry lag, and help clients get stronger.

Performance Nerve Center:
Once athenahealth clients are live, we don’t stop paying attention, of course. Here, our experts track our entire network: They monitor client activity, identify complex or urgent issues, and ensure that top-notch performance continues for all practices.

Production NOC:
The last stop on the floor is “ground control” for all technical activities that athenaNet undertakes. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Production NOC staff ensures that athenaNet, and every one of our related technical environments, is always up and always responsive, with a promised 99.7% uptime. (And this is the coolest-looking room in the building; like the Performance Nerve Center, the NOC utilizes Video Wall technology, each wall composed of a dozen 55” displays that can work as one.)

If you think this all sounds exciting, you can imagine how we’re feeling. Years of experience culminate in a “backbone” of sorts, both physically and digitally, the parts working in tandem to keep our clients as healthy as possible, no matter where they are in their partnership with us.

At a time in which the health care industry is becoming more accountable for quality outcomes, we remain accountable for the health of our clients. And we’ll continue utilizing the cloud and our nerve centers to see how performance is tracking, find where improvement is needed, and help make it happen. I invite you to share your thoughts, or contact us to request a tour.

Ed Park is the Chief Operating Officer at athenahealth. 

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