There’s never a good time to lose an experienced analyst, but the unexpected staff departure couldn’t have come at a worse time for Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. The departing employee was in the midst of multiple projects and gave only two weeks’ notice, leaving the IT staff stretched even thinner than usual. In addition, Dignity Health was just months away from a merger that would create CommonSpirit Health.
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the 595-bed, not-for-profit hospital is a nationally recognized center for quality tertiary care, medical education, and research. With 60,000 employees, including 1,000 providers, the center provides a wide range of health, social, and support services to more than 181,000 patients.
Dignity Health uses athenaIDX™ across the spectrum of its revenue cycle needs – from making appointments and verifying insurance to collecting copays and submitting claims. Processing more than 800,000 claims and collecting $104 million annually, the medical center relies on athenaIDX Informatics to deliver data on demand. Reports and dashboards provide a valuable snapshot of revenue cycle performance, helping Dignity Health evaluate daily progress against key business indicators.
The employee who left focused on reporting but also pitched in across the board, providing application support and training to end users, troubleshooting, and developing enhancements, especially related to scheduling and eligibility. “He helped wherever help was needed,” says Antonio Nevares, Dignity Health’s Support and Training Manager for athenaIDX. “His departure made everything much more challenging.”
“The loss of this employee could have tremendously impacted us,” Nevares notes. “We are data-driven. Many people in our business office work primarily off reporting data figures. It was crucial that we continue to provide timely, accurate data.”
To meet their acute need for application support while backfilling the analyst position, Dignity Health turned to athenahealth Advisory Services. “We didn’t consider any others for our resource needs,” explains Nevares. “We knew the complexity and customization of our [athenaIDX] build. It was a no-brainer to reach out to athenahealth.”
Assigning a portfolio of experts
The project began with a 6-month, 1 FTE staff augmentation engagement to provide day-today support, optimization, and knowledge transfer of the athenaIDX informatics and reporting functions. After assessing Dignity Health’s pain points, athenahealth concluded that a single resource with a specific skillset was not the best fit. Instead, athenahealth provided a portfolio of experts available as needed to act as an extension of Dignity Health, operating within the 1 FTE allocation of hours.
At the start of the engagement, Nevares wasn’t sure what to expect. “I was very surprised at the amount of work that could be accomplished with a single FTE,” he says. “It has been extremely helpful.
“Whatever I needed, I just mentioned it and athenahealth delivered,” Nevares says. “In a time of need they did not let us down. I would love to keep them around forever.” Dignity Health extended the contract for an additional six months to continue the positive impact.
Providing a one-stop shop
The engagement provided Dignity Health with a one-stop shop environment to address questions, issues, and enhancement requests across a broad range of revenue cycle management subjects.
In addition to a person with deep knowledge of informatics, athenahealth designated a team of functional, technical, and consultative resources with workflow and product expertise in eligibility, claims, remits, automation, and engineering. A dedicated project manager tracked and reported on deliverables to ensure an efficient process that met Dignity Health’s objectives.
“Whatever we really needed help with, the project manager could find the right resource, whether it was front-end collections, proactive monitoring, even customization,” recalls Nevares. “Having athena come in, pick up the slack and help in all those areas went a long way toward keeping us on track.”
Delivering data for decisions
The athenahealth advisor optimized Dignity Health’s use of the informatics functions in athenaIDX, providing timely data for business decision-making. Manual processes in backend reporting were reduced and more than 300 Informatics objects were added or revised.
Automating manual workflows reduced user errors and freed up staff for more substantive work, saving two employees a couple of hours every day.
“With so many reports being requested from us each day, we had a couple of employees starting at 5 a.m. to get reports out by 8. Now they can use that time to do other work. It’s been a huge help,” Nevares reports. “Those manual processes took a lot of time and involved lot of steps. Implementing the auto reports pretty much eliminated errors,” he adds.
Access to athenahealth resources with a breadth of skills and experience gave Dignity Health guidance on best practices in many areas. The athenahealth team provided hundreds of hours of knowledge transfer and mentoring in the subjects of informatics, claims, remits, eligibility, and point of service.
As a result of athenahealth’s mentoring, he says, “one of our analysts is now confident and able to consistently supply reports.”
“Our athenahealth team member introduced us to so many new ways to provide reporting,” says Nevares. “Essentially, now we set it up one time and keep an eye on it, rather than reinvent the wheel every time. This was a tremendous benefit.”
Whatever I needed, I just mentioned it and athenahealth delivered. In a time of need, they did not let us down. I would love to keep them around forever.
– Antonio Nevares, Support and Training Manager for athenaIDX Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center