Soon after Christopher Ketchie started his job as Vice President of Physician Services at Beaufort Hospital, he realized the organization would need to address its poorly performing, patchwork healthcare IT. “We had one EHR in three-quarters of our practices, and a different system for our large multi-specialty group. They didn’t integrate,” said Ketchie. “We had no patient portals. There was a lot of paper. It was a nightmare. It was hard to track anything or understand our business.”
Making changes based on experience, insights
Ketchie previously worked with Beaufort’s President and Chief Executive Officer Russell Baxley at another hospital system that was partnered with athenahealth. They knew athenaOne, a cloud-based suite of EHR, revenue cycle management, and patient engagement services was their preferred option, but asked Beaufort’s providers for their opinion. “Nine out of ten physicians said, ‘athena all the way,’” said Ketchie. “So we knew athenaOne was the right choice for us. After implementation, the response has been strongly positive from our physicians. Even the ones who were hesitant about switching EHRs are now the most compelling advocates for athenahealth’s solutions.”
Ketchie and Baxley appreciate several key features about athenaOne. First was the fact that Beaufort is part of a constantly updated, national network. “Having access to knowledge and best practices from thousands of other organizations on the network keeps us efficient and informed,” said Ketchie. “At the same time, we have the ability to customize to our providers and practices. That combination makes athena extremely valuable to us.”
The team also feels that athenaOne is especially easy to use. “athena feels very intuitive to me, and to most of the people that use it, whatever their role,” said Ketchie. For example, new physicians at Beaufort can be rapidly onboarded with athenaClinicals, athenahealth’s electronic health records service. Ketchie said that physicians are impressed with how athenaClinicals makes their lives easier with accelerators and other workflow efficiencies. “I compare athena to Apple products,” said Ketchie. “You don’t need an instructional booklet for your iPhone.”
Flexible, integrated solution provides visibility and is key to growth
Beaufort Memorial serves a diverse and rural population — but in a region of South Carolina that is rapidly growing. The hospital recently opened a facility to bring internal medicine and specialized care to local residents who previously had to drive upwards of an hour to access services. One challenge is ensuring access to care, so the system prioritizes patient engagement and expands services where they can. “We are aggressively innovative when it comes to serving our patients,” said Ketchie. “athena has been able to flex with us as we create new departments and services.”
The new clinic became a vaccine site as soon as COVID-19 vaccines became available. With the help of athenahealth and its integrated Marketplace partners, the team created a zero-contact patient intake as well as automated text and phone call appointment reminders. Ketchie credits athenahealth’s scheduling capabilities to keep the clinic running smoothly and in sync with other locations in the hospital’s network. “athena’s patient scheduling is flexible and easy to use. No matter how patients came to us for a vaccine, whether through a phone call, the patient portal, or another clinical setting, we could incorporate them into a single system,” said Ketchie.
The vaccine rollout came with challenges, however, and Ketchie found his team pivoting when supplies weren’t ready. athenahealth provides near-real-time visibility into metrics at the organizational, location, and departmental level, which allowed Beaufort to quickly identify and act on opportunities to optimize and make decisions. “Having athena has helped us forecast what our schedules might look like a number of weeks out,” he said. “We relied on their platform to estimate capacity, help us manage what stock we needed to have on hand, and keep our throughput efficient.”
Big picture, Ketchie and the leadership team believe that transparency into their operations is a key to ongoing improvement and growth. “athena gives us the ability to see what’s going on across the organization in real time,” Ketchie said. “I’m always looking at our financial volume, referral patterns, you name it. I can customize reports and build my own. I rely on that data to make informed decisions.”
An aligned partner supports the transition to value-based care
The Beaufort leadership team believes that the pandemic has underscored the importance of building patient-centered, valuebased models that incorporate care outside of the hospital. The team is implementing several population health and quality management initiatives. They are not going it alone; athenahealth is an accountable partner in Beaufort’s continued growth and success with value-based care across their organization.
Ketchie reports that Beaufort has a new patient-centered medical home initiative with a large commercial payer. “athena has always helped us track trends and submit quality measures,” Ketchie said. For example, the referral management workflow in athenaOne allowed Beaufort providers to meet the full MIPS Promoting Interoperability measure for both Sending and Receiving and Incorporating Patient Data. “We are grateful for our partnership with athenahealth when it comes to population health management and the risk-based contracts we’re entering into now. They provide us with the quality management workflows and the support we need in order to be successful.”
athenaOne helps enhance the patient experience — and contain costs
The Beaufort leadership team believes that athenaOne has made a positive impact on their patients’ experience. Patients enjoy the personalized outreach they get when it’s time to schedule a preventive appointment, appreciate the easy-to-use patient portal, and have come to expect efficient visits.
With improved collection of patient email and cell phone data thanks to athenahealth staff workflows, the hospital’s patient full registration rate has increased by 30 percent. That, in turn, has increased Beaufort’s total patient panel portal adoption to 40 percent. The patient portal provides patients with 24/7 access to lab results, health records, and payment options. As a result, Beaufort saw a significant reduction in self-pay balances.
Ketchie believes that Beaufort is able to care for patients better because athenaOne provides a holistic view of each patient. “Getting that complete picture of each patient helps us take care of them better. We can more effectively manage care so that they don’t end up back in the ER,” he said. “It also helps us contain the escalating costs of healthcare and provide the best quality care possible.”
Having access to knowledge and best practices from thousands of other organizations on the network keeps us efficient and informed. At the same time, we have the ability to customize to our providers and practices. That combination makes athenahealth extremely valuable to us.
— Christopher Ketchie, Vice President of Physician Services, Beaufort Hospital