By Dr. Nicholas Grosso, President and Orthopaedic Surgeon at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics
It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and health care organizations continue to be heavily impacted by the virus. It has presented significant challenges for all of us and has changed the way we practice medicine, yet providers have innovated and embraced change to improve both the patient and provider experience in light of the pandemic. As private practice providers at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics (CAO), we understand the need to adapt in the face of difficult times, and we’ve been able to embrace changes to position us for long-term success.
Let’s dive into the specific innovations we have recently implemented to create internal and external efficiencies.
Telemedicine has been on our radar for a while, and the pandemic forced providers in all specialty areas to fast-track implementation. In order to continue providing our patients with needed care while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 exposure, CAO quickly pivoted. Orthopaedic care is hands-on by nature, yet our doctors were able to utilize telemedicine for certain appointments like post-operative consultations or reviewing MRI results and discussing next steps. Our patients love the convenience of telemedicine and have peace of mind that we continue to schedule in-office visits when needed. As physicians, telemedicine gives us the opportunity to better engage with more patients – whether by appointment or outside of office hours to answer a patient question.
We feel that telemedicine is a trend that will endure once we return to “normal” and we see particular opportunity for innovation in the physical therapy space. For example, we may one day see home Bluetooth systems that would allow a physical therapist to observe patients and provide feedback remotely, in real-time. Patients with multiple physical therapy appointments per week would experience the convenience of obtaining care in their own homes, and physical therapists would have added insight into patients’ home lives and circumstances to further improve and customize care.
To mitigate the risk of COVID-19, elective procedures were cancelled or delayed across the world, and we recognized the need to streamline surgical scheduling and coordination to aid our patients, physicians and staff. That’s why we adopted Surgimate Practice™, a system that connects schedulers, surgeons, insurance and billing departments, simplifying the process for physicians and streamlining their workloads. Our doctors and surgical scheduling staff have been more efficient, and our organization has seen the benefits firsthand.
At CAO, we have long recognized the power of aggregating patient data, and we’re able to combine data gleaned from Surgimate with that from our electronic health records system, Modernizing Medicine (modmed), which we implemented in 2020 to enhance the patient experience and improve clinical outcomes. These two systems are able to connect to facilitate surgical scheduling coordination.
Leveraging valuable patient data on treatment decisions and outcomes will also position us to implement risk-based contracts in the future. We’re using this data to develop clinical pathways and protocols based on trends to ensure a consistent patient experience and the highest quality care at the lowest price. This is a win-win situation, optimizing the patient and provider experience, improving outcomes and reducing costs across the organization. This would not be possible without data to inform these decisions about care.
Looking ahead, we’re working to identify a solution to optimize the surgical experience and simplify the patient communication process from the day surgery is scheduled to their final physical therapy appointment. For example, we would like to have a system in place that could send text reminders to patients on next steps in the preoperative process as well as notifications after surgery with results and next steps in rehabilitation. Convenience and accessibility are key, and these quick, easy reminders ensure nothing goes forgotten.
Any new technology platform is a financial investment, but we found numerous benefits for patients and providers, especially when we identified systems that would work hand-in hand with existing platforms to maximize outcomes. There are many technological advancements available, but also many health care organizations seeking the same services – don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and see what works for others before making any commitment.
We’ve come a long way since I got out of the Army in 2001, when we used paper charts to track patient information. Now, with the systems CAO has in place, I have secure access to patient records whether I’m at home, in the office or on-the-go – making it easier than it has ever been to provide tailored advice when patients need it most. The patient experience has always been a priority at CAO, and the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of treating our patients at a time and through a platform that is convenient for them.