The Orthopedic Clinic Association's five offices located throughout Phoenix and the surrounding area continually received patient complaints about wait times for appointments and assistance via phone.
IT Case Study Contest nominee: Orthopedic Clinic Association, Phoenix
Founded more than 60 years ago, TOCA, a 32-provider association, has remained committed to giving their patients the best orthopedic care in the Phoenix area. State-of-the-art technology for specialty procedures is essential to the growth of the association. While new equipment has positively impacted the level of care, communication with patients was strenuous and tedious and patients were becoming disenchanted with their overall patient experience. TOCA realized there had to be communication technology available for physician-patient interaction. It was through TOCA's continued networking with other orthopedic clinics in the area that they discovered a Web-based software suite for patient communication.
After surveying their patients and receiving an overwhelming response to providing a way to communicate with the practice online, TOCA implemented the software suite in 2010. “Even though we have a large scheduling department, we were still bombarded with daily phone calls—keeping our patients on hold for a good amount of time—and it was creating excessive patient complaints,” says Michael Hughner, front office manager. TOCA also experienced increased staff efficiency as the IHPP has helped to improve overall operational efficiencies by reducing the volume of phone calls received and redirecting staff to higher other priority activities, thereby improving employee productivity.
Now patients are thankful they can complete pre-registration and custom health forms online and in advance of their appointment from the comfort of their homes, at any given hour of the day. “It has greatly reduced the wait time in the lobby, and staff is no longer spending hours scanning paperwork, which gives them time to help other departments as needed. Plus, we see up to 500 patients daily, and now that a patient can request an appointment online it has significantly reduced our phone traffic and long on-hold times,” Hughner said.
He also noted that providers also benefit from patients completing their forms online because forms are legible, and the providers can be proactive about care, and it allows for more time with the patient. “To our surprise,” Hughner noted, “patients gladly gave us their e-mail address when they found we were offering online services. After e-mailing over 10,000 patients welcome invitations to complete registration and health forms online, we received over a 92% response rate. And in just one year, nearly tens of thousands of forms have been completed.” Hughner also said thousands of dollars in mailing and paper costs have been saved.
After implementing the portal, TOCA patient surveys have shown a significant reduction in complaints, and the association has continued to experience a big jump in patient engagement and satisfaction.
Through the portal, TOCA also offers their patients prescription renewals and online bill pay. Every billing statement that patients receive in the mail promotes online bill payment. Hughner emphatically stated, “We were chasing our patients for payments during work hours.” With their billing payment system, “We've been able to realize approximately $16,000 monthly in collections compared to about $500 monthly before collecting payments online. It's amazing. I love it.”
Overall, the portal has produced significantly better patient engagement while providing value to the practice with improved office efficiencies and increased collections. “The portal has definitely proven to be a method of getting our patients and staff engaged, and improving our office workflow and revenue. It's something every practice should implement,” Hughner said. TOCA used the patient services software to begin the process of meeting a number of meaningful-use criteria. In addition, the portal will help TOCA achieve core and menu requirements for an electronic copy of health information and clinical summaries.
Michael Hughner is front office manager for the Orthopedic Clinic Association, Phoenix.
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