Braintrust: Neurology group transitions to athenaOne to innovate and enhance retention

By Ainsley Platt | August 3, 2022


Raleigh Neurology is one of the largest independent neurology organizations in the country, with 52 clinicians, three locations, and more than 250,000 patients. Operating independently is one of their “key differentiators,” allowing them to treat and care for patients faster than other health systems, says CEO Leeann Garms. But despite the practice’s success, she saw opportunities to innovate and continue to grow strategically, while enhancing workflows, employee training, and retention. A transition to the athenaOne suite of clinical records, patient engagement and revenue cycle tools will enable Raleigh Neurology to do just that, said Garms.

What are some of the challenges that prompted your decision to transition to athenaOne?

Our old system was a traditional software-based platform, and we knew that it wasn’t going to meet our needs in the long-term. Our workflows were inefficient, and we were living with the repercussions of having an overly customized system. For example, we had over 500 appointment types. Each area of our practice was so highly customized that it was difficult for nursing staff to cross-train every time they moved to a different area. The sheer volume and disparity of configurations was also bringing down team satisfaction. The streamlined functionality of athenaOne will enable us to leverage staff better and increase their satisfaction.

Why was athenahealth ultimately your partner of choice?

We could have gone with a large, hospital-type system, which is supposed to make it easier to cooperate with outside groups. The downside to those systems is that they aren’t designed for private outpatient practices like ours – we would have had to give up a lot. athenaOne is different in that it is designed for our kind of practice. athena has a lot of functionality built into the core product – we won’t need to go out and purchase a bunch of ancillary functions and try to integrate them with the platform. But we can also use the athenahealth Marketplace to add features not in the base product and we know that integrate without issue.

Employee satisfaction – and burnout – are very relevant topics these days in healthcare. What insights can you share about your experience?

Having really good technologies and tools that team members can enjoy using and, frankly, won’t burn them out, can change retention patterns. Right now, we have a lot of different systems that surround our EHR system to give us the functionality required to get everything done. With athenaOne, much of those systems are now going to be within the native product, which is going to make it so much easier to use — and support [on the IT side].

Was future-proofing your practice one of your top considerations for an EHR transition?

Yes! When we were searching for our next platform, it was extremely important to us that we went with a platform that, seven years from now, would keep us up-to-fate technologically and adapt to the industry’s trajectory. We wanted to migrate to a system that is best-in-breed from both the technology and feature perspective. We feel very confident in the cloud model athena uses and in the breadth and depth of the resources athena gives us. We like the fact that other practices within our specialty use athena, and that we can learn from them and share best practices through the network. We’ll be able to take advantage of that and make the best configurations that work for our specialty. It’s going to allow us to continue to provide excellent care for our patients while remaining cutting-edge in our tech.

What excites you most about being on athenaOne?

We’re really excited about getting to leverage the Success Communities on athenaOne to help, again, use that collective knowledge to make us all better and provide better healthcare as a whole. The strength in the user community is going to help fuel continued product innovation, which was important to us from the get-go.  

The patient communication features are also really attractive. Communicator features like the pre-check-in and overall ease of communication and care coordination with patients is huge. Our goal is to have every patient actively engaging with us electronically. In my mind, that is the most efficient way to provide care, through everything from telehealth, to the portal, to interacting via appointment reminders.