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    5 tips for interoperability success in the “merger mania” era

    December 8th, 2016

    The shift to value-based care has caused a number of mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships, prompting experts to call 2016 the year of “merger mania” in health care. While these strategies offer benefits and economies of scale, they also introduce new challenges when it comes to integrating clinical data.

    Allscripts interviewed industry leaders about the interoperability challenges they face as healthcare organizations align, and how they are forging ahead with quality care, population health and analytics initiatives. Here are five tips from the experts on how to position for success in a value-based world:

    1. Recognize the cultural aspects of change

    “Right now, we’re in an environment that has nine different electronic health records and 14 different practice management systems across all practices. We’ve tried for years to get the right level of interoperability in place. But it’s a significant shift. Not just in terms of technology, but also culture. One of the biggest challenges that our providers face in this transition is a sense of loss of control. They’re really fighting to maintain their independence while at the same time recognizing they need to be part of this network to meet the requirements and regulations that they can’t meet on their own.”
    Nael Hafez, Chief Information Officer, Pediatric Physician’s Organization at Children’s (PPOC)

    2. Set the tone with strong clinical leadership

    “There’s no secret sauce here. In order to set the tone, the objectives and the improvements in efficiencies that will affect care delivery, you need that strong clinical leadership in place…and that starts at the top. When that tone is set, and the message and objectives are understood, you’ll find you have buy-in across the board.”
    Jim Feen, CHCIO, Associate CIO, Southcoast Health

    3. Define common, clinically relevant data sets

    “Some of the workflow issues we face are really aggravating for patients. Caregivers may have to ask patients for extra specifics on a medication because they can’t get data in a particular format. In some cases, it’s still just easier to just ask the patient again…So we are putting a big emphasis on defining common data sets. To really understanding what the caregiver needs to know to make good decisions. It’s all about looking at interoperability from the lens of the clinician’s use, and sometimes it can’t all be done at one time.”
    Phyllis Teater, Chief Information Officer, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

    4. Connect with standardized, reusable components

    “We’ve got almost 1,200 offices sending immunizations to the state. That was based on building a single transport pipe with an efficient way of connecting folks to that one pipe that allows us to scale without a lot of project activity and redoing a whole interface all over again…So getting out there, interacting with different partners and vendors to put a process in place where we can leverage one connection along with standardized, reusable components so we don’t have to rebuild everything from scratch every time someone else joins our network.”
    Doug Dietzman, Executive Director, Great Lakes Health Connect

    5. Beware rip-and-replace strategies

    The last tip comes from my own experience in the health IT industry, with many cautionary tales about starting over with a new technology. Rip-and-replace can take years, requiring intense redirection of resources and a disruption to care. You run the risk of a cost overrun. And we’re seeing the impacts of those overruns as executives lose their jobs and hospitals are blaming their budget issues on the cost of their EHR. Instead, it’s possible to leverage technology platforms that you already have in place to minimize the cost and disruption.

    Editor’s note: Want to learn more from the experts? Download a free white paper: Truly Connected: Clinical Data Integration Strategies in the Merger and Acquisition Era.

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    5 interoperability findings you should know

    September 28th, 2016

    Our industry is swirling with health data exchange initiatives to enable better population health management. Everyone understands that an open, collaborative approach will help us achieve the promise of interoperability.

    But to shape successful efforts, it’s important to take a step back and look at available research on interoperability. What does the evidence tell us about factors that will lead to population health success?

    The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) offers many helpful resources. Two ONC data briefs* offer compelling facts and figures that should shape our interoperability efforts, including the following research about U.S. hospitals:

    1) 46% of hospitals have access to electronic patient data, from sources outside their clinical systems, at the point of care

    This is the national average in 2015, which is up from 41% in 2014. This research also shows that the average is much higher (89%) among hospitals performing in all four core domains of interoperability, defined as electronically sending, receiving, finding and using key clinical information.

    Response: I think progress is encouraging, but it’s not enough. Notice what the findings tell us about hospitals that are successful across all the aspects of interoperability. We must seek solutions that enable not just one or two but all four capabilities.

    2) Fewer small, rural and Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) had electronic patient data from other sources available at the point of care

    While the national average was 46%, small hospitals averaged 39%, while rural and CAH organizations averaged 35%.

    Response: Because one in five Americans lives in a rural community, we cannot underestimate the importance of interoperability for CAHs. I am encouraged by organizations such as North County Hospital (Newport, Vermont, U.S.A.), that are leading the way in this category, by finding a way to communicate, integrate and exchange data with other systems, without having to rip old systems out.

    3) 53% of hospital clinicians who receive electronic patient data from other sources use it when treating patients

    This means that information from outside sources offers clinicians a more complete view more than half the time.

    Response: At Allscripts, we believe clinicians should have access to normalized, harmonized information every time. Our CEO shared an example from UPMC: After enabling them to access a community-wide view of patient data, UPMC physicians made a different clinical decision 60% of the time. Information is powerful in the hands of clinicians and interoperability enhances opportunities to make the right decisions for patients.

    4) For clinicians who do not use this data, the number one reason is because the information does not appear within the electronic health record (EHR) workflow

    53% of hospitals that rarely or never use electronic patient data from other sources say that the reason is the information does not appear within the clinician’s workflow. The second most common reason? It’s too difficult to integrate it into the EHR.

    Response: This capability is a critical component for success of any interoperability solution, and one that we offer through our interoperability engine, Allscripts dbMotion Solution™, a key component of our CareInMotion population health management platform. Yes, some solutions can send and receive information, but is it integrated and accessible from the EHR workflow? Is it actionable information? These are the aspects that will make or break interoperability’s success.

    5) About half of hospitals reported challenges exchanging data across different vendor platforms

    Other significant technical barriers include the lack of capability among EHR systems to receive data.

    Response: With the rise of collaborative industry efforts, I think days are numbered for vendors who are “closed” and make it difficult for third parties to connect with their software. Interoperability platforms should be EHR agnostic, enabling full connectivity among healthcare organizations.

    Interoperability solutions must overcome these remaining challenges. As an industry, we too often settle for interoperability in its most basic forms, such as systems that require you to log in and search for information summarized in pdf format. That isn’t true interoperability; we need to expect more from standards and solution capabilities. The success of every population health management initiative depends on it.

    * ONC Data Brief 36: Interoperability among U.S. Non-federal Acute Care Hospitals in 2015 [PDF – 1.2 MB] and ONC Data Brief 37: Variation in Interoperability among U.S. Non-federal Acute Care Hospitals in 2015 [PDF – 1.6 MB]

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    Pop Health Forum discussions offer hopeful outlook for interoperability

    July 12th, 2016

    At the 2016 Pop Health Forum, healthcare providers delved into one of the industry’s most pressing issues: How do we meet demand on the fee-for-service side while simultaneously controlling risk on the value-based-care side? Allscripts Vice President of Solutions Management Jim Bresee helped address that question in this video:

    Delivering the complete patient record at the point of care

    Today, patient data resides in many different places. For clinicians to have a complete view of their patients, they need technology that can bring this data together in a way that is accurate and useful.

    First and foremost, it’s critical to know the record is aggregating the data for the right patient. When you bring information together from inside and outside the organization, you have to know with absolute certainty you have the right patient. Technology must use reliable patient identification techniques to accurately link all concepts of a patient.

    Equally important, the platform must normalize to national standard nomenclature to enable comparing data from disparate sources. The Allscripts dbMotion Solution™ interoperability platform provides the additional capability of offering insights from this data at the point of care.

    Innovation won’t come from a single source

    A single company cannot address all of the challenges in Health IT, which is why it is critical to take an Open approach. Collaboration is the only way to accelerate solving problems – and an Open platform enables the brightest minds from all corners of the industry to work together.

    Jim Bresee head shot

    According to Jim Bresee, willingness to collaborate is good news for interoperability.

    I agree with Jim’s assessment that there is good news for interoperability in that vendors are willing to talk to each other to achieve better connectivity. There is a larger appetite for exploring new data integration models.

    There are several new ways to connect systems that didn’t exist before. New initiatives and protocols, such as FHIR, are creating innovative new ways of linking platforms and will result in more tightly integrated systems.

    Maintaining fee-for-service models while shifting to value-based-care models can be challenging, but solid progress toward interoperability will ease the transition. It’s a complex journey, but with collaboration and the right technology platforms, providers can position themselves to succeed.

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    4 tips for home care agencies taking on bundled payments

    February 23rd, 2016

    Near the end of 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) published its final rule for Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR), a bundled-payment model for hip and knee surgeries. CMS has signaled that there will be more of these programs as the industry shifts from fee-for-service to value-based care. Unlike other bundled-payment models, this program is not optional.

    In 2014, more than 400,000 Medicare beneficiaries received a hip or knee replacement. Post-acute care, such as skilled nursing or physical therapy, follows many of the hospital stays for these patients. Homecare can be an important contributor to ensure the patient is not re-hospitalized during this period. CJR goes into effect January 15, 2016 and is applicable on April 1, 2016, when the first model performance period begins.

    There has been a lot of discussion about what the CJR rule means for hospitals, but what do these bundled-payment models mean for home health agencies?

    A recent Home Health Care News article points out the risks and rewards of bundled payments for home health. It features Allscripts Homecare™ client Home Care by Black Stone (Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.). This forward-looking agency is already participating in multiple bundle-based payment plans, and CEO David Tramontana shared several pieces of advice throughout the article:

    1) Reduce risk of readmissions

    “The best position for a home health agency in a bundled payment scenario is to help providers reduce the risk of readmission for their patients,” Tramontana said. “The only lever that you have to actually gain financially in the bundled payment for a home health provider is if you improve your own readmissions based upon your historic costs.”

    2) Develop strong relationships with hospitals

    “When I look at the bundled payment program, I think it’s an opportunity for us to work with providers upstream that are taking risks and develop those preferred provider relationships,” Tramontana said. Once positioned as a preferred provider, a home health agency can share in the hospital’s potential savings incentives.

    3) Invest in data analytics

    “The data analytics firm you choose is really important to understand how to choose the right bundles and then manage the cost within those bundles,” Tramontana said. Agencies must be able to accurately measure and report on patient data to participate.

    4) Expect a longer timeline for Medicare reimbursements

    “Until the claims are actually paid by CMS, you won’t know the actual cost of care for your patient, and it probably takes about six months to have good visibility on what the total claims were for each individual episode,” Tramontana said.

    As the world’s population ages and strains acute care resources, home care becomes an increasingly important piece of the continuum of care. Agencies that can effectively participate in new payment models will be the ones to succeed in the long term.

    To do so, homecare agencies will need a good handle on their processes, specifically with any CJR patients, from referral through outcomes and payment. If you have questions about Allscripts Homecare™ or preparing for bundled-payment models, contact us.


    One health system’s journey with a private health information exchange

    December 15th, 2015

    The University Health System (UHS) hospital is at the center of the healthcare community in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A., where many ambulatory providers use EHR systems from other vendors. To encourage clinical collaboration, UHS knew that the next step was a private health information exchange (HIE).

    In 2014, UHS implemented Allscripts dbMotion™ Solution as its private HIE. In a recent case study and video, Chief Information Officer Bill Phillips describes the organization’s journey:

    In August 2014, UHS rolled out dbMotion, the connectivity platform that enables caregivers to access data in disparate clinical information systems. It helps clinicians share information for better coordination of care. “dbMotion is truly a patient safety product,” Philips said. “Immediately when this system came up, we were getting positive feedback.”

    “dbMotion was the greatest thing that has happened to us,” UHS Chief Medical Information Officer Alton Powell, M.D., said. “Because as a result of dbMotion, whether I’m in the inpatient or the outpatient, whether I’m on Allscripts or Epic, I now have visibility for everything for that patient.”


    Editor’s Note: UHS uses Allscripts Sunrise™ as its core clinical solution, Allscripts EPSi™ to integrate financial processes and Allscripts dbMotion™ Solution as its connectivity platform. To learn more about how UHS combines these solutions to improve results across care settings, earn millions in incentive funding and improve overall efficiency, download this free case study.

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    18 tips for patient portal success

    November 10th, 2015

    There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to patient engagement. Teams have to design a game plan with tactics that work best for their organizations.

    Clients have shared what’s worked for them, and we’ve compiled a list of some of their most creative and successful ideas:

    1) Work as a team. “It takes a team. Provider buy-in is essential, however, we do believe it starts at the front desk. Before the patient leaves we want them to hear at least three times, ‘Hey, did you hear about this cool new tool we have to offer you?’” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas

    2) Start with employees. “We started with rolling it out to our employees. We wanted to gain buy-in, and they also helped us test the product before we launched it publicly,” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health

    3) Assure physicians that messages won’t all come to them. “One of the major hurdles we had to cross was [physicians] saying it’s just adding to their workload. ‘I’m going to be getting patient messages all hours of the day and night.’ It’s absolutely incorrect…if it’s an appointment request or general message, it goes to the front desk staff. If it is for a renewal or referral, it goes to the nurse…we can direct message anywhere they need to go.” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas

    4) Inspire healthy competition among physicians. “We helped drive accountability with a scorecard with every physician name marked green, if meeting goals, or red, if they didn’t.” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health

    5) Keep goals manageable. “Communicate to physicians that you do not need to get 100% of patients. So, you see 200 patients a week, you just need 12 of them to sign up to meet the goal,” Eric Schwab, Director of Primary Care, Excela Health

    6) Focus on specific patients. “You don’t need 100% of patients. You can focus on certain patients, certain type of visits, like the first visit of the day or the first visit after lunch, when the provider has more time.” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas

    7) Target obstetrics patients, if you can. “We concentrated on obstetrics patients, the younger demographic, and that really worked for us at Westmoreland Hospital,” Mike Thomas, RN, Senior Systems Analyst, Excela Health. (Note: Excela Health distributed baby bibs through its OB unit to increase awareness about the portal.)

    8) Capitalize on popularity. “Everywhere I can, I show people that we’ve got 2,000 patients a week that are using the portal…people say to themselves, “Hmm. what am I missing?” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System

    9) Look for patients who like to do things online. “If you have someone up at the window who’s using their phone while they’re talking to you, that’s the person who’s likely to be interested,” Eric Schwab, Director of Primary Care, Excela Health

    10) College students want apps. “Our biggest clinic is in Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University and 20,000 students in a rural area…In that college population, they couldn’t care less about anything browser-based. They want apps.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System

    11) Assure patients that private info stays private. “In the beginning, they’re scared. ‘Is my information going to be shared?’ We have to really encourage them and let them know we will not share information…if they don’t want something shared, we can absolutely exclude that so it is not shared today, or within any future visit.” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas

    12) Sweeten the deal with prizes. “It sounds ridiculous, but people will do anything for an iPad. So buy a stack of iPads and offer them to your patients as prizes for signing up.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System

    13) special events after hospital stays. “We created ‘Passport to Your Health’ events, where we invited recently discharged patients back to the hospital to provide feedback on their hospital stay (they love that part), sign up for the portal and learn about Excela Health services,” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health

    14) Use the phone center. “Our phone center was the biggest impact we had for signing patients up. We take about 100,000 calls a month at Holzer, and with each and every call we describe to the patient what the patient portal is, what advantages it has for them, and offer to send them an invite right there on the spot.”  Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System

    15) Use medical record requests. “When a patient is calling in or coming in to the hospital to pick up their medical records, it’s an opportunity to talk to them about the patient portal,” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health

    16) Talk to civic groups. “I went to every civic group that I could…Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau…and gave my elevator speech. I talked about three things: messaging your doctor, renewing your prescriptions and scheduling appointments.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System

    17) Hire temps. “We hired an enrollment representative for high-volume practices, those with four or five doctors seeing 60 patients each every day. We initially used a temporary agency, though, now some have become employees.” Eric Schwab, Director of Primary Care, Excela Health

    18) Try square brochures. “Brochures don’t sound very exciting, and we have a wall full of brochures…We made the patient portal ones square, and they really stand out. They were a big hit.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System


    Thanks to the teams at Excela Health, Holzer Health System and Clinics of North Texas for sharing these tips for clients using Allscripts population health management solutions.

    What tips would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below.


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    Handle with care: Seeing patients safely through transitions

    October 29th, 2015

    Transitions—when patients move from one care setting to another—represent a state of vulnerability for both the patient and the healthcare organization. Patients need referrals to the most appropriate provider in a timely, seamless fashion so they get the level of care they need. If patients leave the network, it could result in revenue leakage for the provider organization.

    I’ve heard healthcare leaders estimate that between 20-30% of their patients ultimately leave their network during a transition of care. This renders the care team less able to ensure patients get the best possible care—and less able to track patient progress and monitor follow-up.

    Plus, it means missed revenue opportunities. When patients see out-of-network ambulatory or post-acute providers, healthcare networks are unable to capture the revenue that would otherwise be associated with patient care.

    There are downstream financial effects, too. When patients leave healthcare networks, providers can’t be sure patients are following their care plan, which can be costly. The risk of preventable hospital readmissions increases, for example, which can result in significant financial penalty. CMS penalized 2,610 hospitals this year for avoidable readmissions. And that means CMS will reduce payments for every Medicare patient stay—not only for those patients who are readmitted.

    Fully integrated referral management with CareInMotion™ Precision Transitions of Care

    Precision Transitions of Care is a component of Allscripts’ innovative CareInMotion platform, designed to address specific population health management priorities.

    Precision Transitions of Care helps clinicians in three primary ways:

    1 Manage referrals across the entire organization – acute-to-post-acute, acute-to-ambulatory and ambulatory-to-ambulatory – within a single workflow.

    2 Direct patients to the next phase of their care, keeping them within provider networks to minimize leakage.

    3 Reduce preventable readmissions, ensure care is aligned across settings and enable optimization of resources.

    A powerful combination of proven Allscripts solutions is at the heart of Precision Transitions of Care, a modular solution set that can adapt to different strategies. It draws from the capabilities of Allscripts Care Management™, which facilitates 12 million annual referrals, or 27% of electronic acute/post-acute referrals in the United States. It incorporates the industry’s leading ambulatory-to-ambulatory referral management platform, par8o. It also includes Allscripts Care Director™, to help manage high-risk patients while capturing data to measure improvements in the care process and patient outcomes, and Allscripts EPSi™ for financial decision support data to optimize provider networks.

    Clients see results very quickly after adopting these solutions to more closely manage their referrals. For example, a Pennsylvania medical center has been using the ambulatory referral management capabilities from Allscripts. Within 10 months, the organization reported more than 28,000 referrals, a 216% increase in referral volume. More than 61% of those referrals required follow-up action. The organization also reduced the amount of time needed to contact referrals by 93%.

    To find out more about how Precision Transitions of Care can help your organization, visit our website.

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    Exploring data exchange in UPMC’s pediatric environment

    October 27th, 2015

    At a recent meeting for clients that use Allscripts population health solutions, we heard several success stories. Despite various outstanding achievements, many interoperability conversations started with, “We’re not as far along as UPMC, but…”

    A clear leader in interoperability, UPMC is a healthcare provider and insurer. To give a sense of the organization’s size and influence, UPMC operates more than 20 hospitals and 500 outpatient sites.

    At the meeting, clients heard from two Assistant Professors of Pediatrics in the UPMC Division of Newborn Medicine, Sean Frederick, M.D., Assistant CMIO at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Amy Urban, DO, Clinical Director of Interoperability at UPMC. They shared an interoperability journey in a pediatric environment at two busy tertiary care facilities, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

    Data exchange in a pediatric environment

    It’s an electronic world at UPMC, with widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs). Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is the only pediatric facility in Pennsylvania to be recognized as a HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 hospital and is renowned for its all-digital campus.

    Drs. Frederick and Urban talked about the importance of exchanging information, especially in a pediatric environment:

    Intra-hospital exchange. Communication starts within the hospital. Continuity of obstetric care is important – from prenatal care, through labor and delivery, and finally through post-natal care. UPMC’s Magee-Womens Hospital has a different vendor for its inpatient and outpatient systems, but it must seamlessly review and exchange data between the two systems.

    Intra-facility exchange and transfer. For situations such as high-risk neonatal births, or special surgical and subspecialty evaluation of infants, it’s important for UPMC’s facilities to be able to share information. Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC use the same vendor for their inpatient systems, but those systems are set up in different environments. When babies move between facilities, their complete medical records must follow.

    Inter-institutional exchange and transfer. As the leading provider in the Pittsburgh area, UPMC hospitals often receive patients from surrounding community hospitals and from urgent care clinics to UPMC emergency departments and inpatient units for further evaluation and care. It’s critically important to be able to connect with statewide sources of information, such as health information exchanges (HIEs), to review pertinent medical information.

    Using dbMotion for regional information exchange

    The Pennsylvania Statewide Immunization Information System (PA SIIS) receives immunization messages and information from all healthcare organizations throughout Pennsylvania. UPMC entities can access this information through the web-based dbMotion environment or within their native EHR environments.

    “Using dbMotion we can review a complete immunization history for each child from PA SIIS, ensuring that each child is up to date on all recommended immunizations,” Dr. Urban said.

    Another UPMC-supported effort to connect broader community data is ClinicalConnect Health Information Exchange (CCHIE), the largest HIE in the state of Pennsylvania with more than 7.3 million unique patient records.

    Some of UPMC’s outpatient pediatric facilities went live in 2013 and have started using the data. For example, a pediatric rehabilitation facility has 194 active clinical users who have viewed 9,300 patient records and have contributed 11,600 documents to CCHIE. One of the largest independent pediatric physician practices in western Pennsylvania also went live viewing data in 2013, and it has 160 active clinical users who have viewed more than 2,400 patient records.

    Studies have shown that access to comprehensive patient information can help clinicians make better decisions at the point of care. “dbMotion fills in the blanks,” Dr. Frederick said. “It works seamlessly within our existing workflows and electronic environments…some physicians probably don’t realize it’s a different solution providing the information.”

    Part of a broader vision for patient-centric care

    Drs. Frederick and Urban emphasized that the true goal of interoperability is to provide more patient-centric care.

    “It’s all about meaningful contextual information at the point of care,” Dr. Urban said. “The right information, to the right stakeholder, in the right format, through the right channel, at the right point in the workflow.”

    Editor’s Note: In 2013 UPMC sold its interest in dbMotion to Allscripts. UPMC partnered directly with dbMotion for seven years on an interoperability solution that seamlessly brings together patient data across the health system to improve the delivery of care.


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    How Clinics of North Texas will achieve 50% patient portal timely access

    October 20th, 2015

    There is no magic bullet when it comes to engaging patients to use a patient portal – rather, a magic buckshot.

    No one understands this better than Clinics of North Texas (Wichita Falls, Texas, U.S.A.), which has invited 55% of its patients in 2015 to join the Allscripts FollowMyHealth® patient engagement platform.

    Clinics of North Texas Chief Information Officer Melissa Huff and Clinical Trainer Trudi Pittman shared their experience at Population Health University, our annual user group meeting for clients with Allscripts population health solutions. The organization is a multi-specialty clinic with 45 providers and about 200,000 patient visits each year.

    “To encourage adoption of the FollowMyHealth portal has taken a lot of creativity and a team,” Pittman said. “You have to involve everybody from the beginning to the end of the process.”

    What the enrollment process looks like

    When a patient arrives at Clinics of North Texas, their first stop is the front desk. There, an account specialist asks the patient to complete an opt-in/opt-out form to receive an invitation email for the patient portal. The IT department uses these forms to send the invitation emails.

    During the patient’s appointment, the nurse will explain portal benefits to the patient, and if time allows, the nurse will help sign the patient up for a portal account while the patient is still in the exam room. The physician will close the appointment by encouraging the patient to use the secure messaging feature within the portal, which operates much like any email system. The physician also explains that communicating through the portal will save patients time because they won’t be placed on hold or be forced to play phone tag like they would if they called the office instead.

    “We’re not focusing on every patient. Pick the patients during the day that make the most sense,” Pittman noted. “Is that the last patient before lunch? Is there a certain type of patient you want to focus on? That’s different in different areas of our clinic…but we focus on just a couple that will walk out the door already signed up and ready to use, at the minimum, the messaging feature.”

    Overcoming common misconceptions

    Huff notes that her team has had to overcome some misconceptions to reach its current adoption rate of 20%. For example:

    Staff stress about reaching 100% of patients. Huff and Pittman both emphasized the importance of keeping goals manageable. It’s not possible to sign up every single patient, so focusing on certain types of patients or certain appointments can help teams succeed.

    Negative patient association with previous portal. Clinics of North Texas had a different portal that did not work as well as planned. One of the hurdles with enrolling patients in FollowMyHealth was educating them that it is a new portal with improved functionality.

    Physician apprehension about messages. Several physicians expressed concern about receiving patient messages all hours of the day and night. Huff explains that FollowMyHealth enables the team to send messages to the most appropriate person, which isn’t always the physician. For example, appointment requests go to the front desk staff and medication renewal requests go to the nursing staff. Physicians are only involved as needed.

    Patient concern about privacy. Especially when using social media account logins to sign up for the portal, patients are sometimes concerned that information could be shared publicly. Clinics of North Texas staff reassures patients that this is not the case.

    Pittman and Huff agree that being able to customize FollowMyHealth has made it a powerful tool for engaging patients at Clinics of North Texas. “I don’t think we could function and provide the same level of patient care without FollowMyHealth,” Huff said.

    If you are struggling with patient portal adoption, Allscripts can help. Learn more about our Patient Engagement Consulting Services (PECS) in this video.

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    Excela Health teamwork leads to patient portal success

    October 13th, 2015

    Excela Health (Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) prioritizes a positive patient experience. Combining teamwork with its patient-centric philosophy helped the organization succeed with Allscripts FollowMyHealth® patient engagement platform, branded ExcelaHealth.Me.

    Since launching the portal in January 2014, Excela Health has enrolled 20,000 patients and adds more than 1,500 new accounts each month. It has also exceeded the Meaningful Use requirement for more than 5% utilization – in both inpatient and outpatient settings – helping claim about $3 million in incentive funding.

    It takes a team to succeed

    “Your first step is to embrace the fact that patient portal deployment and utilization are communication challenges, not IT problems,” Excela Health Manager of Communications and Digital Media Jaime Crawford said. “It really does take a team.”

    Excela Health engaged the senior leaders first and launched a governance structure that involved all parts of the organization. The team took a phased approach to enrollment:

    Phase 1 – Start with employees. Excela Health has 4,600 employees, many are also patients. By starting with enrolling employees, it also created ambassadors for the portal. Employee events, emailed invitations and contests helped deliver the message and encourage adoption.

    Excela Health, FollowMyHealth patient portal

    A screensaver reminds Excela Health employees the importance of Meaningful Use, including meeting the patient engagement measures.

    Phase 2 – Expand into the inpatient environment. Excela Health included portal flyers in every admission packet and nurses reviewed the flyer again with patients during discharge.  Excela Health created “Passport to your health” events for recently discharged patients, where they can give feedback, sign up for the portal and learn about additional services.

    Phase 3 – “Big-bang” roll out to all ambulatory sites. Excela Health rolled out the portal to all 70 locations at the same time. Successful components of the campaign included physician-to-physician communication, reminder cards for physicians to hand to patients, and a required step-by-step training video for employees enrolling patients. Excela Health acknowledges that there are too many different workflows to standardize the approach across all sites, and it’s important to personalize.

    “The senior leadership team recognizes that successful patient portal enrollment is a front-office staff issue, a marketing issue, an IT issue – it’s everyone’s issue,” Director of Primary Care Eric Schwab said. “You have to uphold the value of teamwork…There’s no ‘I’ in ExcelaHealth.Me.”

    To learn more about how FollowMyHealth can help improve patient engagement for your organization, visit our website.

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