Access and availability

Case Study | Evans Medical Group

How “turnkey” services enabled Evans Medical Group to launch a successful chronic care management program

  • ILLO_Medical-office-Teal_DGT_2

    Multispecialty practice providing care in family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics

  • Female Dr and male nurse

    12-provider practice located in Evans, Georgia

  • ILLO-laptop_phone_DGT

    athenaOne Chronic Care Management Services deliver better access and availability to patients

Challenges

  • Lacked infrastructure to stand up self-supported chronic care management program
  • Retaining well-trained personnel was crucial, but difficult
  • “Tyranny of urgency” often took priority over building care program

Solutions

  • athenaOne®
  • athenaOne® Chronic Care Management Services

Results

  • Launched a successful chronic care management program using athenaOne’s “turnkey” services 
  • Improvements in blood pressure, diabetes management, weight management, and an overall healthier (and happier) patient population

Dr. Christopher Apostol, DO, and the team at Evans Medical Group wanted to extend greater access and availability to their patients, especially those dealing with complex health issues. To do so, they decided to pilot an in-house chronic care management program. Ideally, the program would provide more frequent, personalized touchpoints with patients, designed to deliver a higher level of care to those who need it.

However, both IT and staffing challenges made it difficult for the practice to get the program up and running over other important day-to-day needs.

Fortunately, Evans Medical Group was already successfully running their practice with athenaOne®. They decided to relaunch their care program using athenaOne® Chronic Care Management Services, which is fully integrated into the athenaOne suite of services. The partnership has produced an effective, sustainable program with excellent results for patients.

Improving access and availability to patients with chronic care needs, both in and outside the office

When they initially decided to start an in-house chronic care management program for patients with chronic health issues, the team at Evans Medical Group wanted to enhance the care they were already providing.

“Chronic care management provides a different type of relationship within the practice,” said Dr. Apostol. “The patient already has a relationship with the provider, but [when they join the program] they get a designated person outside of that provider who is able to understand them, understand their lifestyle, understand their medical problems, understand their needs, and also be an easy point of access when a crisis or a problem does come up.”

However, there were multiple barriers to getting the program up-and-running on their own.

A battle against the “tyranny of the urgent”

At first, the strategy was to hire new personnel specifically to manage the program. However, even when they hired highly capable staff, it was difficult to keep them focused on the job they were brought in to do.

“We tried our best to hire staff that we thought were really good, and they were. But, when the tyranny of the urgent occurred––when somebody called out sick, or when all of a sudden it was flu season and a large number of people were walking in––the path of easy resistance was to grab that chronic care management person, which then would take them out of that role,” said Dr. Apostol.

Beyond the challenges of hiring the right people and keeping them focused on running the program, the team at Evans Medical Group also discovered that the IT requirements for running a chronic care management program were more advanced than they anticipated. As a lean, independent office, they simply didn’t have the staff infrastructure or bandwidth necessary to stand up such a multifaceted initiative.

“Unfortunately, we don't have the infrastructure and background to be able to ensure that we could [run the program] well. And so, it seemed like we were always doing it half-heartedly and not out of intention. There's only so much that we could do within our office setting.”

Next, they considered bringing in a vendor. A number of solutions were available to support or outsource the care program, but adding another system to their list of core applications was a non-starter. Dr. Apostol felt strongly that asking his team to add an additional “screen” into their daily processes would unnecessarily increase administrative burden: “The thing I really struggled the most with was asking my staff to use another application. We are already involved with an Accountable Care Organization that requires us to use another application. One of my biggest fears was adding a larger burden on my staff […] by required us to log into an additional system.” 

Building strong, patient-centered relationships with athenaOne Chronic Care Management Services

A turning point came when Dr. Apostol and the team learned about athenaOne® Chronic Care Management Services. This offering is fully integrated into athenaOne, which the team at Evans Medical Group had been using successfully for years.

“[athenahealth is] a trusted partner. They're a trusted advocate for my practice, and it's been a successful win for the last ten years in our relationship with athena. So, I just figured that if athena was going to offer [CCM], they had my best interests at heart.”

The chronic care management services offered through athenaOne are staffed by nurses and other specialists who conduct a variety of care management activities on behalf of Dr. Apostol and his colleagues—in accordance with boundaries pre-determined by the Evans Medical Group care team. These activities include things like scheduling care management appointments for goal setting, condition education, medication management, etc. and communicating back to the staff at Evans Medical Group. By outsourcing the staffing element of the program, Evans Medical Group has been able to keep the program running successfully, even when the practice is at its busiest.

Importantly, adding the service through, athenaOne has not been a significant burden to the staff. In many ways, it was seamless.

Dr. Christopher Apostol, DO, Evans Medical Group

“Starting up [athenahealth’s] chronic care management [program], it may sound kind of silly, but it was turnkey. I mean, there was really not much to it because athena already had everything in place,” said Dr. Apostol. “It didn't require much training or much change for our staff because everything works within that one product. Most of our staff didn't even really notice that there was a change.”

The outcomes? Happier, healthier patients.

Getting their program up and running with athenaOne Chronic Care Management Services has been a success for the entire staff at Evans Medical Group. Unlike their previous attempts, the technology and personnel challenges of the past have been solved with athena’s fully integrated solution, backed by experts.

Still, the most important constituents are Evans Medical Group’s patients. What do the participants think?

“Our patients are excited about using chronic care management. They're excited about those monthly calls. They're excited about what the next steps are within their own health care,” said Dr. Apostol. “With a lot of the patients that we've had [in the program] thus far, I'm seeing better blood pressure control, I'm seeing better diabetes control, I'm seeing better weight control. So overall, I think I'm going to see a healthier patient population.”*

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*These results reflect the experience of one particular organization and are not necessarily what every athenahealth customer should expect.