A family practice’s journey with athenaOne® before and after going live on the solution
As an osteopath, Timothy J. Gray Sr., D.O., knows that the key to success is flexibility, not rigidity. The same holds true for owning and operating Mountain View Medical Center (MVMC). But with technology that wasn’t meeting their business or clinical needs, he and chief executive officer and co-owner David Swartout knew that it was time to “peel back the onion layers” and reexamine “business as usual.” The Oregon-based, family-owned practice explored their options and opted to transition to a solution that would help Mountain View Medical Center scale and improve key business functions as they grow.
A changing market meant changing needs
Dr. Gray, Sr. and his sons, Timothy Gray, II, D.O., and Thomas C. Gray, D.O., had been operating MVMC as a Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) practice for years. But with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation’s decision to sunset the program by the end of 2021, the Drs. Gray saw the challenge as an opportunity and moved to a primary care first model.
Their new model builds on their previous principles: prioritize the clinician-patient relationship; enhance care for patients with chronic conditions; and incentivize improved health outcomes. Each new change comes with a swath of updated payer regulations. As they changed to their new business and clinical model, Swartout knew MVMC likely needed more agile tools to help the practice meet these standards.
A collaborative process makes all the difference
Through the process of evaluating athenaOne, Swartout ensured he had the right voices in the room, representing clinical and administrative perspectives. “Engaging MVMC staff from the outset allowed all perspectives to be considered and mitigated potential aversion to change,” said Swartout.
The initial days of this decision-making process were heavily centered around education and evaluation from both ends. athenahealth’s commitment to the process while absorbing the insights from MVMC staff reinforced this as a beneficial partnership for his office to continue. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this level of engagement drew us all in,” Swartout said.
Staying with athenahealth and converting to athenaOne became MVMC’s top choice. A high level of customer service, enhanced patient engagement, and help getting claims paid faster were among the key reasons the organization wanted to stay and make the switch.
All hands on deck — smart execution leads to a smooth transition
Swartout’s biggest ask of MVMC’s team was to leave nothing on the table during the process of transition, and every single provider and staff went all in as they explored athenaOne’s workflows. One of the most successful efforts during this period was the core team’s weekly meetings, where they shared their learnings and weighed in on their experiences.
And to avoid possible hiccups during the initial days of transition, they cleared providers’ schedules by 50% as a precautionary measure. Thanks to athenahealth’s training and support resources and MVMC’s strategic measures, some of the providers found the new EHR to be so user-friendly that they wanted to fully reopen their schedules just after a couple of days of utilizing it.
Facilitated quality reporting will allow clinicians to focus on patient quality of life
Success in value-based care is paramount for Dr. Thomas C. Gray, especially when it comes to “partnering with the wonderful people of our community to improve their overall health and wellness,” he said.
“I especially enjoy working with patients with chronic health conditions to provide them with the opportunity to live their best life.”
But in order to do so, MVMC needed access to patient communication tools, and the ability to navigate and comply with frequently changing payer rules and updates to quality programs.
Facilitating easier ways for MVMC to work their way through this challenge became athenahealth’s first order of business once the practice went live on the solution. With athenaOne’s capabilities, Swartout’s team is no longer spending hours on end working around updates that didn’t really make them more efficient. athenaOne’s operating model is built in a way that software upgrades are inherently faster, and compliance with payer regulations are easier as well.
“Under these models, our practice is constantly achieving and maintaining these ever-increasing requirements from insurers. It felt like we were coming up with workarounds to achieve and make things happen,” explained Swartout.
Enhanced connectivity and communication drive greater clinical outcomes
The clinical team at MVMC also enjoys the level of connectivity that athenaOne has unlocked for them. “The connection with the hospital systems, specialists, and labs has been wonderful. Digging up patient records used to consume a lot of our time and energy. It is all very readily accessible to us these days,” said Swartout. As a result, providers get to go home sooner than they did before, and their same-day chart closure rate is significantly higher than before.
The connection with the hospital systems, specialists, and labs has been wonderful. Digging up patient records used to consume a lot of our time and energy. It is all very readily accessible to us these days.
The conversion to athenaOne has not only enhanced and streamlined workflows for greater clinical efficiency but has given MVMC access to advanced patient-facing tools like athenaCommunicator. Through automated messaging, live operators, and a patient portal, athenaCommunicator helps practices engage patients in their care and reduce administrative work for staff – all pivotal to Dr. Thomas C. Gray’s goal of enhancing partnerships between clinicians and patients.
“The patient app and the portal enhance the ease at which one can schedule an appointment or communicate with a provider. This boost in technology has brought about a positive change that we notice among our patients,” explained Swartout. “Internally, the fact that providers can use their mobile devices to get certain tasks done was another shot in the arm for us.”
To sum it up, they are now able to conveniently provide the care that their community deserves from a larger space with the help of a better solution.
A partnership that brings future visions closer to the present
A goal MVMC aims to achieve in the near future is strengthening their recall system. Swartout believes that keeping track of patients who need to schedule follow-up appointments and regular checkups would improve the collective health of the community.
“As we are coming closer to a year of collaboration with athenahealth, we want to make sure that we’re treating patients well, not just in the short-term but also in the longer run,” he said.
The larger vision, according to Swartout, is expanding their practice to a third location and increasing the number of providers on board to 25. “By growing this way, we can do a lot more for our community. athenahealth has been a super great partner so far, and I think this alliance will get us to the place where we want to be,” Swartout said.
Just a few months after going live on athenaOne, MVMC has been able to stay on top of gaps in care and be on the leading edge of quality care. MVMC’s and athenahealth’s shared goal of growth and service to the community is a vision that will be soon realized.