Keeping Track of Patients Across the Care Continuum at Miami Children’s

Sept. 27, 2013
When it comes to technology for patient engagement and population health management, physician practices, hospitals, and integrated health systems across the country are searching for ways to track patients across the care continuum, identifying gaps in care and opening the door to improved outcomes and patient satisfaction. One such organization might have found a solution.

Medical professionals understand that determining room availability, knowing if a patient has recently been checked-in, registered, treated, or why they are waiting are important—yet difficult—tasks in a busy healthcare facility. As such, when it comes to technology for patient engagement and population health management, physician practices, hospitals, and integrated health systems across the country are looking for ways to track patients across the care continuum, identifying gaps in care and opening the door to improved outcomes and patient satisfaction.

One such facility, the 289-bed Miami Children’s Hospital based in South Florida, was specifically looking for a way to trace patients from the time they enter the patient access area through their visits to service units. “There is an office component to patient engagement, in addition to a clinical component,” says Ed Martinez, CIO of Miami Children’s. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do you manage the traffic in the front desk area, and how do you provide a better experience for patients so they’re not waiting around forever with no one knowing what they’re there for? When we looked at our software vendor (Cerner), they didn’t have the functionality that we were looking for.”

Martinez says the hospital then turned to PatientPoint, the Orlando, Fla.-based vendor of patient engagement technologies, for its PatientPoint Tracker solution, which the organization has been using for about three months. Through customized dashboards, says Martinez, Miami Children’s can follow the patient from the time an appointment is scheduled through the check-in process and visits to one or more departments, continuing with post-care tracking, such as follow-up appointments. The dashboard provides clear visibility to current patient wait times, and managers can use the software tool to adjust staff levels as necessary, he says.

“When patients come through the door, we know they’re here, who they’re coming to see, what they’re here for, and then what we need to do for them,” he says. “Often, patients are left waiting and people forget that they’re there. This allows us to manage the patient experience, but also make sure we don’t miss anything on our end that could be a potential revenue source for us or a clinical opportunity for the patient.”

As a result, says Martinez, the hospital has noticed better engagement from patients. “They’re more aware that we’re aware, and that proves that we see them as not just another body, but instead a person with a name who needs care. Ultimately, this will close the gap in care and improve outcomes. It’s not about sitting in a waiting room to get a test. It’s about me knowing exactly what you want and you articulating back exactly what you need. It’s been really well received, in general.”

Specifically, Martinez explains how this technology can be especially beneficial when it comes to clinical trials—which can be incredibly time-consuming for the patient’s family due to loads of paperwork and legal documents, he says. PatientPoint is now partnering with major pharmaceutical companies, medical technology companies, and contract research organizations (CROs) to accelerate clinical trial recruitment and drive patient retention in clinical trials.

With clinical trials, the research consent forms and process is very extensive, as documents can be up to 70 pages long. And often, the patient will show up 15 minutes prior to the appointment time, Martinez says. “There’s no way that can happen. If we create it as part of the electronic intake process using PatientPoint Tracker, now the patient sees a summary of the consent, and can see details or e-mail it to himself/herself beforehand. Now the 15-minute window is met, and there is no delay for that patient or patients behind [him or her].”

Martinez also says he’s seen a significant improvement in patients’ attitudes. “It’s important to put yourself in the center of it,” he explains. “If you’re a patient who comes to a facility like ours, and we lose track of you, and we don’t know how long you’ve been here or  what you’re here for, can you imagine how frustrating that would get? Now, instead of realizing that this patient has been here for 30 minutes, we can get that patient ready by signing documents rather than waiting until the last minute. In essence, we’re getting ahead of the curve by beating patients to the point where they might get upset, which is a regular occurrence. We’re using that window while they’re waiting for the doctor to our advantage, and also have them feel like it goes by quicker because they’re keeping busy.”

Most facilities today keep track of patients with an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document, or something of that nature, Martinez continues. “There isn’t one system out there that does it all correctly, at least before this. It enhances the experience of the patient, but also ties it back to the clinical record and clinical outcome. The worst thing you can have is a good outcome with an unhappy customer. If you can have a good clinical outcome with a good experience from the customer, they’ll come back, assuming they need to, of course.”

And Martinez feels that PatientPoint Tracker can serve as a step to looking at that next level of patient engagement with a detailed level of keeping track of patients, reporting, and integration, so providers can now optimize their care management workflow. The solution also helps support new care models, such as population health management, accountable care, risk-based contracting, and bundled payments, he says. “Managing the expectation of the patient is a part of accountable care experience. What we’re doing here will be tied to that accountable care model—while there isn’t one solution that will fix it, I truly believe this is a big piece to the puzzle.”

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