Innovating the urgent and primary care patient experience with a scalable, flexible platform
Founded in February 2012 and operating from a single office for more than two years, TrustCare today is a 10-site primary care, urgent care, and pediatric care organization in Mississippi.
From its inception, TrustCare has focused on going above and beyond through innovation to deliver an excellent patient experience from check-in to appointment to follow-up. Thanks to this focus, TrustCare clinics have an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews.1
“We’re really passionate about not just providing quality care but also providing a better overall patient experience,” said Warren T. Herring, TrustCare President and Chief Executive Officer. “We’re always trying to be ahead of the curve as it relates to meeting patient’s expectations.”
The right resources for clinical and patient workflows
As part of this commitment to providing a high-level patient experience while at the same time increasing clinician efficiency, TrustCare went live with athenaOne in July 2019.
The migration to a new electronic health record (EHR) and practice management system was a critical step forward for TrustCare. The previous system had met TrustCare’s needs from a functionality perspective, and the organization received the level of customer service that it expected. The challenge, Herring said, was that the system couldn’t support TrustCare’s innovation strategy.
“As a group, we tend to be innovation forward,” he said. “We ask ourselves three questions: What’s the next thing that can make the patient have a better experience? What’s the next thing that can make our clinicians more efficient? And what does a consumer do every day utilizing technology that could be applied to the healthcare experience? Our former vendor didn’t have the capabilities that athenaOne does that allow you to customize the technology pieces you want to package together.” Frustration with wait times, whether it’s seeing a doctor or getting the results of a lab test, can have a negative impact on the experience and lead patients to seek care elsewhere in the future. As it turns out, each of the third-party vendors TrustCare identified in its patient experience portfolio already had established integrations using athenaOne’s open application programming interfaces (APIs). What’s more, the presence of the API made it possible for TrustCare to integrate its home-grown applications. “One of the biggest value propositions for us is athenahealth’s openness to allowing us to utilize the technology that we’ve developed ourselves to better serve our patients and provide a better experience for our clinical staff,” said Herring.
The ability for these previously disparate systems to talk to each other and drive TrustCare’s innovative approach made athenaOne the right match. “What it comes down to more than anything else is the openness of the system and being able to plug in the resources and the tools that work the best for our workflow,” Herring said. “Because those systems are all communicating, the patient doesn’t feel like they are skipping back and forth across different systems.”
An innovative patient experience through the TrustCare+ app
With the foundation of the scalable, flexible, and extensible athenaOne platform in place, TrustCare was well positioned to roll out its patient experience toolset. One important part of that experience is its membership model, TrustCare+, which offers priority access to clinics and on-call access to the clinical care team. The organization’s patient-facing technology tools help to make this model possible, Herring said, as the combination of scheduling and queuing solutions allow members to obtain the next available appointment slot.
Leveraging athenahealth's technology and Marketplace Partners, combined with its own TrustCare+ App, patient-facing technology used by TrustCare include the following:
HIPAA-compliant texting. As Herring put it, today’s consumers only make phone calls when it’s “100% necessary.” In healthcare, many questions can be answered by text message, such as requesting and receiving blood test results. Instead of having one 10-minute phone conversation, TrustCare staff can have 10 text conversations with patients. Phone calls remain an option, Herring said, but they’re no longer the default for contacting TrustCare.
Digital check-in. Through the TrustCare+ app, patients can fill out pre-registration forms on their phones, without first entering the clinic. This feature – rolled out over just two weeks in the early days of the pandemic – helped TrustCare not only maintain day-to-day operations but also handle surges of up to 1,000 patients per day. Today, 93% of TrustCare patients use the digital check-in feature, and Herring estimated that the organization saves $45,000 per year on paper costs annually since there are far fewer paper forms at check-in.
Prescription price check. When patients receive a prescription, the TrustCare+ app allows them to look up the price of the prescription and offers a cash pay option, as some medications are less expensive fully out of pocket than with insurance coverage. This feature also ties back to TrustCare+ membership, which offers discounts on prescriptions.
Digital bill payment. According to Herring, 88% of TrustCare’s patient bills are paid digitally. This is vital in TrustCare’s practice where the volume of services is high but the revenue per care episode is low. It’s also unexpectedly popular with patients. “It’s a very rare day as a healthcare provider where someone says, ‘Thank you for making your bills so easy to pay,’ and I’ve actually heard that more than once,” Herring said. “We’re just trying to bring the expectations of a normal consumer setting into a healthcare setting.”
A platform capable of supporting growth
A patient experience enhanced through technology innovation is an important component of TrustCare’s utilization of athenaOne, but there are also business benefits, according to Herring.
One is the availability of clinical and financial data through the athenaOne platform. “You can really dig in and slice and dice what you’re getting out of the system to enable your business to better support and adapt to company needs – and that’s traditionally a very hard thing to do in healthcare,” Herring said.
Another benefit has been athenahealth’s adaptability, flexibility, and scalability in meeting TrustCare’s unique needs as it developed its innovative application. Much of this stems from the initial onboarding between TrustCare and athenahealth. Herring said both sides aimed for a deployment model that would be “a copy-paste scenario” and not “an enormous rebuild” whenever TrustCare opened a new clinic: “It’s streamlined. We’re certainly not having to do it from scratch.”
This approach helped TrustCare maintain critical services during the pandemic, and Herring said it will also support the organization’s continued expansion, both in opening new clinics and in offering additional primary care and acute care services.
“What gets me most excited about going to work every single day is continuing to improve our processes and technology to help make patients’ access to care and their overall healthcare experience better each and every time we interact with them,” Herring said.
It’s a very rare day as a healthcare provider where someone says, ‘Thank you for making your bills so easy to pay,’ and I’ve actually heard that more than once. We’re just trying to bring the expectations of a normal consumer setting into a healthcare setting.