By Dr. Louis Levitt
The phrase “patient experience” has become more prevalent in medicine in recent years as the next generation of consumers desires more out of their health care experience than those before them. Doctors now need to consider factors like convenience – think easily accessible office locations, parking and minimal wait time – in addition to full transparency with the patient around the treatment plan, and the best possible care at the lowest cost, all facilitated by the latest in technology.
Let’s be honest, change is never easy, especially when it comes for physicians who have been in practice for several decades and are accustomed to their routine. How do we as physicians implement new technologies and what are the benefits of making such a large investment?
Before adopting a new technology or process in the office, it’s critical that someone on staff do enough preliminary research to determine the impact it will have – both the positives and negatives. The individual who takes on this research role can then serve as an advocate and leader to help educate the majority on why this change is worthwhile.
Once you move forward with the implementation process, your office can select “champions” or “superusers” to become experts on the platform, helping to facilitate a gradual and measured rollout of the tech. Once they are comfortable with it, these superusers can teach the other physicians and staff members, serving as a resource for questions as they arise and teaching any new members who join the team. While this may be a time-consuming process, it is critical to ensuring a successful adoption long-term.
Now, let’s dive into the impact technology can have on the patient experience.
Harnessing Data for Clinical Protocols
When The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics (CAO) launched in 2014, we united more than 20 independent care centers to form one of the largest orthopaedic groups in the country. Our goal – which we’re achieving every day – is to preserve the private practice model of care we all value so much.
We’ve continued to grow and now offer care at more than 60 offices across 28 care centers. We realized there was an opportunity to improve efficiencies and the overall patient experience by selecting a single healthcare technology solution and electronic health records (EHR) system. We recently began rolling out Modernizing Medicine’s orthopaedic suite of solutions including its EHR system, EMA, across all of our offices. After a thorough review of the available technology in the space, we selected Modernizing Medicine as the ideal partner in helping to consolidate the clinical, financial and operational functions of all CAO divisions and facilitating the growth of our enterprise.
As our organization grows by region and orthopaedic subspecialty, having a single, integrated solution specifically designed for orthopaedics will help us simplify referrals, enabling a patient to easily see doctors across locations without having to fill out laborious paperwork or transfer medical records – allowing for clinical continuity across the organization.
Additionally, having a unified EHR system will help us more easily share clinical information amongst providers in our group and leverage meaningful clinical data – which is critical as we manage our patients’ musculoskeletal care.
For example, there are numerous clinical pathways we can follow when treating patients, and this consistent use of technology helps provide transparency into treatment decisions and outcomes. Over time, we plan to study and use this data to set best practices and clinical protocols, ultimately working to improve outcomes and reducing cost across care centers. This positions us to provide clinical consistency and an improved patient experience regardless of who a patient sees or where a patient seeks treatment.
Technology also plays a pivotal role in ensuring efficiency before, during and after a patient is in the office. We recently began using a platform that will help us track patients’ preoperative requirements and will soon roll out a patient-facing app that will essentially serve as the patient’s ticket to surgery. They’ll receive reminders in advance of surgery on the next steps in their preoperative process as well as notifications after surgery with results and next steps in rehabilitation. This will transform the pre- and post-operative surgical experience for our patients and our staff.
In the office, instead of loads of paperwork, patients can now use electronic kiosks connected to their patient portal for check-in, simplifying the process of gathering patient information or paying any open balances. Paperwork will be a thing of the past, as providers should now have all patient information available online, to be shared via email or text message for increased transparency.
Additionally, our systems are used in conjunction with a platform that specializes in helping to manage the patient experience. Patients can submit feedback on the entire visit – beyond clinical care – so we can better understand the patient’s perception of the overall experience. Similar to other industries, should a patient give a negative review, we as doctors can refocus our efforts and improve in the future.
We can’t talk about health care technology without acknowledging the importance of telehealth. There’s no mistaking that in light of the pandemic, telehealth has skyrocketed. In orthopaedics, we have shifted to leverage telehealth predominantly for post-operative check-ins and for the elderly who feel they are at increased risk of contracting the virus. Telehealth has eliminated the inconvenience of having to take time off work, drive to the office and potentially pay for parking, all just for a short post-operative check-up. Now these types of visits can be done from the comfort of your own home in a fraction of the time – with the same effectiveness. As patients become more comfortable with this form of treatment, I believe that telehealth will be here to stay and is now a must-have for providers who want to be competitive in today’s landscape.
Health care consumers are much more sophisticated today than in the past, and embracing technology that will transform internal and external operations for the better is vital. In short: technology matters. I would recommend that all practices and providers invest in technology to help improve the patient experience and clinical outcomes. As physicians, it is our duty to offer best-in-class care AND a positive patient experience, and it starts with more convenient access to care.
Dr. Louis Levitt is Vice President and Orthopaedic Surgeon at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics.