proactively engaging patients with less time and effort
Like many busy practices with time and personnel constraints, Coastal Pediatric Associates (CPA) struggled to regularly contact all of their patients needing preventive care. Relying on paper-based administrative processes, office staff was spending hours individually contacting each patient (via phone, email, or mail) for preventive care, including appointment scheduling and reminders. With athenaCommunicator, CPA can now reach more patients across their growing patient base in less time, and with less work. Using automated outreach campaigns, including their ongoing Well Child campaign, CPA can quickly engage specific patient populations with targeted outreach, preserving the personal touch that resonates with parents of infants and toddlers.
Keeping up with patient engagement
In the shift towards value-based care, effective patient engagement has become a requirement for high-performing medical practices, but many practices struggle to execute this at scale. CPA knew it needed a more effective approach to engaging their 34,000 patients. The practice’s staff was running reports from its EHR to identify care gaps, printing and distributing those reports to staff members, and reaching out to patients requiring services. “Our staff would manually make all these phone calls,” says Dana Wolf, Director of Quality Programs. “But primarily it was one patient outreach coordinator responsible for patient outreach. As one person, eight hours a day, you can only do so much.”
As an existing athenahealth client, CPA inquired about the athenaCommunicator service, which offers automated messaging, live operators, and a patient portal to engage patients in their care while significantly reducing administrative work.
“It is important to CPA to move with payers towards a value-based payment system,” says Ms. Wolf. “We just needed to figure out how to engage our patients and look at outcomes and trend data. Where do we need to improve with our outreach? Where do we need to focus? And where are we doing well, so we can build on our successes?”
With athenaCommunicator, CPA was able to reduce staff workload and improve patient care. With visibility into patient communication metrics to easily report on outcomes and tools to conduct targeted, automated campaigns for their baby, toddler, child, and adolescent populations, CPA can now keep up with the rapidly evolving requirements of value-based care.
“Set it and forget it”
The practice appreciates how easy the athenaCommunicator service is to use. “athenaCommunicator is built very well,” says Ms. Wolf. “It takes a lot of work off our plates. We can basically set it and forget it. I call it the Crockpot method. You set up your campaign, and you don’t have to worry about it.”
The practice can conduct multiple patient campaigns—including annual visit, flu shot, and vaccine reminders—with much less work. “The campaigns are running in the background, and we’re getting more appointments scheduled. But we don’t have to utilize manpower to capture patients. athenaCommunicator is doing it [for us].” The practice uses athenaCommunicator to customize automated Well Child campaigns by age group. “Automated appointment reminders are useful for parents of older children,” says Ms. Wolf. “They are generally more experienced with fewer questions around their child’s health, and appreciate gentle reminders to maintain their older children’s visit schedule.”
On the other hand, parents of newborns and toddlers prefer more hands-on communication with the practice. “We supplement our automated baby and toddler outreach with calls from our patient care liaison,” says Ms. Wolf. “She doesn’t have the pressure to do adolescent outreach because that is handled by Communicator, so she can focus on making personal connections to our newer families.”
A stronger connection to patients
CPA is pleased with the impact automated outreach campaigns have had on their patient engagement. By encouraging communication between patients and providers, outreach campaigns help patients and their parents take a more active role in their care and share important information with their care team.
“The biggest difference we noticed was how many patients contacted us for appointments after receiving a reminder, without us having to track them down,” says Ms. Wolf. “It’s great to see. They say, ‘Oh my gosh, I got a text message that I need to come in.’ Or ‘I got an email I need to schedule my appointment. I didn’t realize I was overdue.’”
Adolescent well-visit campaigns are especially successful, because this population doesn’t require many vaccines and may not make regular appointments. “A healthy 12-year-old is most likely not going to come to the doctor for an annual well visit unless they’re prompted,” says Ms. Wolf. “With athenaCommunicator campaigns contacting this group, we have definitely seen an increase in well-visit compliance.”
The practice is also able to better connect with families of babies and toddlers. “Well visits for babies and toddlers are more unique,” says Ms. Wolf. “With athenaCommunicator, we are able to follow up personally with the zero-to-three age group. There are more nuances with those families. Now we have the time to answer their questions, help them get the appointments they need and get used to our practice.”
Plus, when families get notifications from the practice, it encourages them to check the patient portal. “Patients are accessing the portal more, because when they get communication from us they realize it’s there,” says Ms. Wolf. “When they get messages from us, they find out they can access their providers and records online.”
“They see our practice as leading edge”
Automated outreach campaigns have positively impacted the practice’s reputation. Families are happy about the new available forms of communication, allowing them to customize their preference for email, text, or call.
“Families can choose their preferred contact method,” says Ms. Wolf. “And at least 60 percent prefer texting. They see our practice as leading edge in healthcare. It helps them feel comfortable with us.”
Better outcomes across the board
CPA’s Communicator campaigns allow patients to be active in their care. This not only improves patient outcomes and closes gaps in care, it helps the practice meet quality program requirements, avoid penalties and drive revenue.
“Our outreach campaigns have positively affected collections,” says Ms. Wolf. “We’ve increased our well visits, which brings in more revenue, and also helps us qualify for program incentives like Medicaid Meaningful Use.”
Most importantly, CPA can continue to serve patients with the best care possible. “We’re passionate about making sure that our patients get the care they need and deserve,” says Ms. Wolf. “With athenaCommunicator, we pride ourselves in making sure that preventive care is a focus.”
athenaCommunicator takes a lot of work off our plates. We can basically set it and forget it. You set up your campaign, and you don’t have to worry about it.
— Dana Wolf, Director of Quality Programs