With a "solid foundation," rehabilitation leader is empowered to build a new service line

Case Study | Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network
  • purple map of use with blue nodes

    Nationally recognized rehabilitation leader

  • Glob and purple location pin

    70+ locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

  • ILLO_Two-Patients_DGT_3

    60K+ patients seen yearly


  • Disparate IT systems and paper charts limited growth
  • Lack of visibility into revenue cycle
  • Outdated systems restricted ability to develop innovative programs to maximize patients’ quality of life


  • athenaOne®
  • athenaTelehealth™


  • Grew from 15-31 physicians
  • Created a new Transitional Care Management program
  • Reduced return-to-acute volume and spend

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network is a nationally recognized rehabilitation leader offering a continuum of care for people with injuries, complex medical needs, and physical or cognitive disabilities. Patients come from across the country hoping to maximize their everyday functioning, often after experiencing a major life event like a stroke or spinal injury.

“We really feel that we’re on the cutting edge of helping people get back to the highest level they could pre-injury or pre-life event,” said Cindy Buchman, VP of strategic planning and operating services. The Good Shepherd team meets patients when they’re at their most vulnerable, and their goal is to provide compassionate support to both patients and caregivers throughout the rehabilitation process.

That mission is a guiding light, but when Buchman joined the Good Shepherd team, they didn’t have the right technology systems and processes in place to keep up with the innovative, life-changing care they aim to provide. Some clinicians still relied on paper charts, slowing down billing processes and risking lower reimbursement rates. After partnering with athenahealth at previous organizations, Buchman knew athenaOne would bring Good Shepherd’s technology up to speed with their innovative approach to care.

Modern technology and revamped business processes

Since going live with athenaOne, Buchman has noted immense improvements in business processes, from revenue cycle to performance insights. Buchman says that Good Shepherd didn’t have enough transparency into the revenue cycle — claims would go missing, and reports weren’t always accurate. Partnering with athenahealth for revenue cycle support has changed the game. “What athena helps us do is take a lot of that work, first-pass, off our hands,” Buchman explained. “athena shows us why claims are rejected, so our team can move through issues quickly.”

Revenue cycle insights gained from the performance dashboards enable Buchman to identify problems quickly and provide actionable feedback to her team. “We’re looking at metrics as a team every month, and the athena platform allows information about billing and coding metrics to be right there for us,” she said. “The system is transparent and easy to use.”

Buchman attributes Good Shepherd’s success improving the revenue cycle to their sense of true partnership with athenahealth. “We have some of the best revenue cycle metrics out there, and we know what to do because athena is working with us as a team,” said Buchman. “You don’t feel like you’re alone when you have athena’s revenue management system. There’s always someone there to help you, there’s great benchmarking, and there’s great back-end intelligence.”

Perhaps most importantly, the team’s newfound revenue cycle confidence has empowered them to focus on program innovation. “We were able to start a new service line, and I don’t have to worry about whether the claims are going to fall into cyberspace and we’ll never see them again,” said Buchman. “That doesn’t happen.”

New service line improves rehabilitation experience for patients, caregivers, and clinicians

That new service line, a Transitional Care Management (TCM) program, is something Buchman had wanted to develop for a long time, but she knew Good Shepherd didn’t have the modern technology and workflows needed to support it. “If you don’t have a solid foundation, you can’t really build a TCM program without worrying about all the details,” Buchman explained. “With athena, I didn’t have to worry about the revenue side of it, and I knew that we could use the athena platform to continue to support our patients once they’re discharged from their inpatient stay.”

The goal of the program is to provide continuity and dedicated support to patients and their families for a 30-day period post-discharge. Good Shepherd’s nurse practitioner establishes a relationship with patients while they’re in the Good Shepherd hospital and reviews their discharge plan, documenting everything in athenaOne. Once patients are discharged, the team checks in with the patient and their caregiver via telehealth visits, answering questions about medications, discharge instructions, new durable medical equipment, and making follow-up appointments with the necessary clinicians.

Buchman says using athenaTelehealth makes it easy for the patient or caregiver to get in touch when they have questions. “When patients leave the hospital, they’re nervous, and the information is overwhelming,” she explained. “More often than not, there’s a question or concern once they get home. We pride ourselves on doing whatever it takes to help patients get what they need once they leave.”

TCM enables patients to stay in touch with a clinician they already have a relationship with — someone who knows everything that happened during their inpatient stay. The setup benefits patients, caregivers, and clinicians alike. “It ensures quality,” said Buchman. “It gives patients continuity after their discharge, and it really has improved patient satisfaction. It ensures that their progress continues on.”

With support from athenaOne, the TCM program is also improving clinicians’ ability to provide the best care to patients without added burden. All documentation that’s required for TCM — from inpatient intake through 30-day follow up — has been built into athenaOne. According to Buchman, “it’s seamless for our nurse practitioner to move through the visit, to document, and to send orders.” And when patients return for an office visit, clinicians can easily review their progress and challenges within athenaOne.

Transitional care management program is “a win-win”

Good Shepherd’s TCM program gives patients and their families peace of mind, while improving patient outcomes. Part of the goal in setting up the TCM program was helping Good Shepherd’s acute partners reduce readmissions. With TCM, “we’re cutting down on those return-to-acute spends, which are costly for the acute hospitals that may be sending us a patient,” said Buchman. “One in five Medicare recipients are readmitted yearly, and 76% of readmissions are considered preventable, costing Medicare $17 billion a year.¹ If we can help that while helping patients and families, it’s really a win-win.”

With athenahealth, Buchman says Good Shepherd is positioned to not only provide that high-quality level of care, but also continue growing and innovating in the future. “We’ve been able to add providers so easily. It is a guarantee. What you see is what you get; there are no surprises,” Buchman explained. “If anyone is interested in starting a TCM program or considering switching to athenaOne, I’d love to be of assistance. I really feel that we’re so much better off because we can do so many things with athena.”

Cindy Buchman, VP of strategic planning and operative services, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network

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

1 “Guide to Reducing Disparities in Readmissions,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, August 2018, https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/OMH/Downloads/OMH_Readmissions_Guide.pdf.