Union Community Health Center (UCHC) has been providing care to some of the poorest communities across the Bronx, NY, for more than 100 years. UCHC’s patient population faces high rates of chronic conditions, as well as significant systemic barriers to accessing care, like unemployment, housing insecurity, and health literacy.
As a federally qualified health center, UCHC is subject to extensive reporting requirements, like the time-consuming, complicated Uniform Data System (UDS) measures. Simplifying the UDS reporting process is one of the reasons UCHC initially selected athenaOne, according to UCHC CEO Douglas L. York, Ph.D.
“So many other EHRs make it very difficult to mine data that we’re required to report from a regulatory perspective, but athena was built with the UDS requirements in mind,” York explained. “Running the UDS report is very, very simple, and our clinicians are able to monitor compliance with the UDS data goals.”
Building a strong partnership and strengthening the business
The benefits UCHC has gained since onboarding go far beyond the ease of UDS reporting. York says that access to real-time data through athenaOne keeps the business on track, and seamless integration with athenahealth Marketplace partners has positioned UCHC to “grow the organization in the easiest way possible.”
UCHC also partnered with Advisory Services, athenahealth’s optimization experts, to make significant improvements to their revenue cycle. UCHC previously struggled with unstable billing cycles, leading to fluctuations in cash flow. Through leveraging a combination of athenahealth’s technology and expertise, York says, “I think we’ve gotten to a really great place, in terms of our billing. Our AR has never been lower. We get out more claims in real time. All of our cases are closed almost immediately.”
Charge entry lag decreased from 22.5 days before working with Advisory Services to 6.8 as the engagement wrapped. UCHC’s days in accounts receivable (DAR) has also continued to improve since implementing Advisory Services’ optimizations — from 35.6 days to 25.3 days. Denied claims and claim turnaround time have also improved, according to York, and UCHC is operating more smoothly as a business. “I think the billing cycles are much more stable and reliable. We’re looking at a much more even cash flow as a result of this partnership,” said York. “And those are really, really important metrics.”
UCHC has also benefitted from a strong partnership with their customer success manager, Lisa Small, a member of athenahealth’s FQHC-specific customer success team. Small regularly pulls data reports and proactively points out areas for improvement. “Lisa’s been absolutely amazing, just fantastic,” said York. “She’s always been a constant resource for anything we need from athena, whether it’s something in her wheelhouse or she’s connecting us with the right person and following up.”
That support helped UCHC weather the ups and downs of the pandemic, from pivoting to telehealth visits to using athenaCommunicator as a crisis communications tool to engage with their highly vulnerable patients. “If we didn’t have athena in place when COVID onset, we would have had much more serious difficulties than we did,” said York. Through it all, York says athenahealth is the right partner for UCHC — and other FQHCs.
"You will see the return on your investment in four key buckets,” said York, referencing the improvement UCHC has seen in patient satisfaction, revenue cycle, compliance, and ability to grow the organization. “If you’re having a problem with one, two, or even three of those buckets, you need to make a change, because doing nothing will not change the status quo at all. After switching to athena, your revenue cycle will improve, and your internal and external customer satisfaction will improve.”
"We’ve gotten to a really great place, in terms of our billing. Our AR has never been lower. We get out more claims in real time. All of our cases are closed almost immediately."
Douglas L. York, Ph.D., CEO, Union Community Health Center