09 Sep, 2019
Tales from the Front Desk
How Much Front Desk Dysfunction Costs Medical Groups
Mike is the CEO of a 200 physician medical group in a mid-sized city. As you can imagine, Mike has plenty of challenges to keep him up at night. Physician bonuses for Medicare and commercial plans are now dependent on their ability to manage chronic diseases. Demands from health plans keep intensifying to demonstrate improved health outcomes at lower costs. The medical group has invested in a comprehensive electronic health records system but is struggling to tap that data for ongoing patient management. And always, he's working daily with the doctors to get them on board with the mandate to move toward value-based care. Somewhere in the back of Mike's brain lurks the fact that every patient that fails to show up for their appointment costs the group $200. But until recently, he never put together the impact of this monetary loss with the long-term success of the group. What changed was a presentation he heard at a national medical management conference, under the "innovation" track. Mike loves new ideas, but he's also practical about the pitfalls of implementation.
The Patient Access Intelligent Chatbot (Confusing to me..protocol droid?)
Outside the "innovation" track meeting room (got confused – which meeting room?), a small C-3P0-like robot beeped a welcome, tipping off the audience that this talk had something to do with technology – maybe robots. Closer examination showed thatthe topic actually featured newly developed, automated chatbots for patient communication. Embedded in the electronic health record, these intelligent chatbots could actually conduct two-way personalized communications with patients via conversational texting. Instead of one-way texts on patient reminders, the chatbots could re-schedule appointments as needed with no human intervention. Their ability to communicate in more than 150 languages removed the barrier of speaking with patients who did not understand English, and more than fulfilled LEP (limited English proficiency) requirements. What really got Mike's attention were the statistics on increased adherence to follow-up appointments, check-ups and vaccinations – they far exceeded his group's track record in coordinating follow-up care with texts, postcard reminders and e-mails.
Closing Patient Communication Gaps: The Key to Performance-based Care
The light bulb really went on as Mike grasped the relationship of better management of these simple tasks with the physicians' and the groups' ability to coordinate follow-up care that was essential to improve medical outcomes and reach quality metrics. Connecting these gaps in patient adherence was the foundation of the group's ability to deliver value-based care. If patients with chronic illnesses kept their appointments for re-checks and lab tests, they would experience fewer complications that could lead to expensive hospitalizations and unnecessary ER visits. If people received preventive care – screenings and vaccinations – they were less likely to get ill in the first place, and early detection would mean a less complicated and expensive recovery. And reducing the frustration of patients waiting in the reception area, because of planning that overcompensated for anticipated no shows, would boost patient satisfaction scores.
The Asparia Solution
Asparia was the name of this new service, the first automated, intelligent chatbot to tap into the information in the electronic health record and automatically handle the communications and follow-up with patients for their medical care. Since Mike's group had one of the many EHR's in which Asparia is embedded, he was relieved to hear that it could be "turned on" with no training and no deployment. Asparia operated seamlessly, taking on all these patient communication tasks with no intervention by staff or physicians. Within a few days, Asparia was installed in Mike's medical group. Within the same month, no-shows dropped significantly, patients were telling staff how they loved the new reminder system and interacting via text, and the group's drive to remind senior citizens and vulnerable adults to get their pneumonia vaccinations was more successful – and less expensive – than ever. Mike still worries. It's the nature of his job. BUT he now knows that this simple step forward with Asparia was a big leap in the group's ability to deliver true population health management and to meet their quality goals. These enhanced metrics are also giving the medical group a competitive advantage in contracting with insurers and self-insured employers. Mike is still amazed that he solved a problem whose magnitude wasn't even recognized. But the scope of the performance advantages and the efficiency improvements are unmistakable. Read about a medical practice success story here.