Horizon Health Services, a behavioral health provider in New York, in November 2019 deployed telemedicine technology with the goal of meeting the demands of patients and the ever-changing world of technology. Then COVID-19 hit. That accelerated the use of telehealth for Horizon and the world.
In year after COVID-19 struck, healthcare changed. Telehealth technologies became part of the clinical care delivery model. And Horizon’s telehealth maturity evolved. Operations changed.
“As a result, we needed to implement a more integrated telehealth solution that streamlined staff workflows and simplified the patient experience,” explained Jake Haacker, CIO at Horizon Health Services. “We needed to scale up to a true platform that integrated with our Oracle Cerner Millennium EHR, improved communication with patients, and removed requirements for a mobile app requiring username and password.”
In 2019, Horizon had deployed the telemedicine technology from vendor Amwell. Already having that relationship, Horizon was able to identify, brainstorm and develop answers to known problems and opportunities.
“It quickly became apparent that Amwell’s Converge platform would provide Horizon with a robust solution that already had a longstanding partnership with Oracle Cerner,” Haacker said.
“In addition to the newly developed solution, the vendor offered speed to market and implementation, since the system already was code-certified within Oracle Cerner’s App Gallery,” he continued. “This unique offering allowed Horizon to expedite the go-live migration process.”
“We’ve decreased overall wait times for appointments by 40% by introducing virtual visits through the new platform.”
Jake Haacker, Horizon Health Services
Within two and a half months of migrating to its new EHR, Horizon integrated the Converge telehealth system into its clinical chart, providing counselors, doctors and other users a one-stop shop for all clinical care, he added.
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MEETING THE CHALLENGE
With the EHR integration of telemedicine, all patient encounters now are in a single system. From the initial phone call, scheduling, telehealth visit, clinical documentation and billing, all steps are within the EHR workflows.
“Staff no longer have to duplicate labor efforts with scheduling in the EHR as well as the standalone legacy telehealth system, or jump to another screen to log in to see the patient,” Haacker noted. “All workflows for that patient encounter have been consolidated into the ‘single solution’ context. Currently, our clinical staff serves about 50% of our patients via telehealth and patient surveys have shown very high satisfaction rates with this medium.
“Additionally, from a patient experience perspective, patients no longer have to register for a user account, remember their password, or proactively log into the system prior to the visit time,” he continued. “Converge integration enabled a time-of-visit text or email with a secure link that allows the patient to simply click to join. This new workflow greatly improved the patient experience and reduced the associated technical support tickets by 50%.”
Following the switch to Converge, Horizon Health Services has seen a major reduction in staff burden associated with scheduling, telehealth visits, clinical documentation and billing.
“Previously, these all were addressed within separate programs, so there was a lot of duplicate work for staff,” Haacker said. “Now that all clinical and operational workflows are within our EHR, staff have much less administrative work and can focus on patient care.
“With Converge, we also were able to expand the tele-capability of residents and now support services in two underserved rural areas in New York,” he added. “We support nearly 900 new patients – and counting – within these underserved areas, who historically had limited access to behavioral health and substance use disorder care.”
Horizon also unlocked a much faster and more satisfying patient experience.
“By enabling a simple, single-click access process, patients no longer have to supply and remember a username and password, making it much easier for them to begin their appointments,” Haacker reported. “Horizon also dramatically reduced wait times to accommodate appointments.
“The availability of in-person or virtual visits allows us to triage cases and accommodate initial patient appointments within a single business day, as needed,” he continued. “Previously, the average wait time for an initial appointment was 5.25 days. Likewise, we’ve decreased overall wait times for appointments by 40% by introducing virtual visits through the new platform.”
USING AWARD FUNDS
Horizon Health Services was accepted into the FCC Connected Care Pilot Program, which covers 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide connected care services to a patient population. Horizon used that funding to procure the Amwell Converge telehealth technology.
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