"Patient engagement is the name of the game in healthcare today," says Dan Coholan, president of Simple Admit.
Ambulatory surgery centers that engage their patients beyond the traditional provider letters and phone calls will far exceed their competitors in driving patient volume and satisfaction. The most advanced providers are using email, text messaging, phone calls, data sharing and social media, among other tactics, to connect with patients efficiently and effectively.
Your ambulatory surgery center can too, with the right partnerships and new technology seamlessly integrating into current workflows.
"Innovative disruption is good," says Mr. Coholan. "Using technology to improve healthcare is the future, but it has to make a difference to the patients and the provider. It's up to us to understand our customers and make sure we create cost-effective solutions that improve medical outcomes and business operations for ASCs."
Simple Admit has developed a suite of patient-engagement solutions designed to engage, enable and empower patients to achieve better medical outcomes. Their customizable technology also creates efficiencies for ASCs, including interfacing with existing practice management software and EMRs.
"I have used a number of different systems throughout the years, and people are quick to sell a software or system, but I will tell you Simple Admit backs up everything they said they would do," says Conroe (Texas) Surgery Center Administrator Edward Downs. "Customer service is beyond reproach. They go above and beyond to make sure everything is in place and educated our staff throughout the transition. I haven't ever experienced that much support after purchasing a system. This is one of the best decisions we've made this year."
"One of the most critical things any technology company can do is listen to their customers," explains Mr. Coholan. "As a company, that's been essential to our success. We are so committed to this, we recently hired an ASC administrator who used to oversee five centers to spearhead our Client Success Team. We want our clients to know that their feedback is one of the main drivers in our product development."
Some of the technologies include:
Simple Admit — Online pre-op screening that engages with patients through phone or online health history data collection. Patients have the ease and convenience of completing their health history anytime and from any place, which promotes more accurate and thorough data collection. Patients can also log in anytime to update and manage their health history information.
Simple Pay — Pre-visit payment system where facility staff can easily email the patient co-pay and deductible information then offer a link to a payment portal. Patients can setup payment plans, credit card payments or even apply for financial assistance before their day of service. Patients feel more in control of the process and educated about their options.
Simple Contact—Automated phone calls and text messages that are integrated with all other services, enabling the facility to easily contact patients to register online, remember their appointments, and follow pre-visit instructions.
Simple Assist — Phone registration and pre-op screening for patients who want to be engaged but struggle with online systems. Simple Assist gives patients the option of phone screenings or registrations. The Simple Assist service is convenient and easy for patients who may want to talk about the process, ask questions, and call back multiple times.
Simple Surveys — Within a day of their procedure, patients receive an automated customized email from the ASC linking them to a customized patient satisfaction survey, which the patient can easily and quickly complete online. Patient feedback is timely and important.
"Simple Admit was formed as a patient admissions tool but has evolved into a patient engagement solution," says Mr. Coholan. "Each of our services can be integrated, so once we connect with the patient, we are able to support their desire to manage their medical information, ask questions, get education, pay their bill, even give the ASC survey feedback. All of this leads to a more informed, compliant patient and better medical care overall. Our technology has been moving in this direction for many years, and the ASC industry has really embraced it."
Patients typically aren't looking forward to their surgeries; even elective procedures can make patients nervous. But a welcoming and efficiently run surgery center can make the experience better.
"Patients tend to explain a little more on their online health history form rather than verbally communicating, therefore the clinical staff can assess the patient and their needs to prepare and communicate to the anesthesiologists and/or surgeon if need be prior to the visit," says Pamela Stahlberg, regional director of Business Office Operations at United Surgical Partners International. "This allows the clinical staff to have a plan in place for patient care."
According to Mr. Downs, patients may complain about long wait times, repeating their health information over and over, or case cancellations. Mr. Downs has seen wait times shrink from more than an hour to 30 minutes because the process is much quicker. "We've seen a difference in the patient satisfaction for wait times; it has increased to the 96th percentile, and there has been a drastic decrease in cancellations," he adds.
With the Simple Admit platform, patients can enter their health history at a convenient time and don't need to arrive at the ASC an hour before their procedure just to fill out forms. They aren't bothered with multiple phone calls, if they prefer text messages, while they're at work and they won't be surprised with a bill the day of surgery.
"Where Simple Admit has really stepped up is with their 24/7 customer service," says Boston Out-Patient Surgical Suites Administrator Gregory P. DeConciliis. "And, they have the automated processes like phone calls reminding patients to log on and enter their information. The entire process is good for patients. It's simple, and the patients appreciate knowing they are empowered to control their health information."
These services drive operational success at the ASC:
1. Nurses and front office staff don't have to spend time tracking patients down, making multiple phone calls to gather their information. Instead, they can focus on clinical responsibilities while the automated system prompts patients for their information.
"Simple Admit has allowed the facility to be able to give better care. We receive information ahead of time allowing the nurses to review a more detailed description of the health history, and they can determine the process that will need to occur once the patient arrives," says Ms. Stalburg. "It has also streamlined the admissions process because the information is obtained ahead of time instead of at check-in which makes for a happier patient."
The patients' information is consistently provided on all the forms and prepared in the same way so physicians and anesthesiologists can depend on consistent information for every case. The automated system increases ASC efficiency as well.
"We function at a very lean level, so not having to use our resources for these services is tremendous," says Mr. DeConciliis. "And they offer the product at affordable prices. We couldn't live without it. When a patient doesn't fill out their information online, it really slows us down."
2. There are fewer case cancellations because the pre-screening system flags anything that may prevent a case from moving forward. The system also reminds patients about their pre-surgical protocols.
"We can help ASCs engage their patients at the right time to review medical histories, prepare pre-testing before it's too late, and reduce cancellations," says Mr. Coholan. "It's a very strong value for our surgery centers."
Before implementing Simple Admit, Mr. Downs' staff would call the night before surgery to check in with patients. Now, the Simple Admit technology contacts the patients several days before surgery, which gives nurses more time to review each case correctly and identify potential issues. His center sees 600 to 700 cases per month.
"In December of last year, we had to cancel four cases in one day for various reasons," he says. "If we had Simple Admit on board then, those cases would have been caught and we'd have known and taken care of them before the patient came in."
3. Collections increase because patients are prepared with their co-pay amount before the surgery begins. "Managing patient co-pays and collections can be a big patient dissatisfier," says Mr. DeConciliis. "When you don't let the patients know they owe money, they're surprised the day of surgery. If you communicate that, it's helpful in capturing the full amount."
The patient can pay their responsibility before surgery or set up a payment plan, depending on the ASC's protocols. "This gives patients options as to how they want to take care of their financial responsibility so the center isn't chasing bills post-surgery," says Mr. Coholan. "If we can help them get that squared away ahead of time, that significantly impacts their bottom line."
Without the Simple Admit system, Mr. Downs would have added another position to work on patient information and co-pay collections. The salary would have been $60,000 to $80,000 per year for an FTE, and they'd still have had the same number of cancellations and delays, according to Mr. Downs. There are also printing and postage costs for sending bills to consider.
"We are able to utilize the Simple Admit services to make the process more cost-effective while decreasing wait times for patients and increasing patient satisfaction," says Mr. Downs.
The innovations don't stop there. Simple Admit's platform was designed to continue meeting customers’ needs. The company has in-house teams of developers, project managers, and client support specialists — often former nurses and ASC staff — who listen carefully to client feedback and continually work on new product development.
"We want to find the best ways to help our ASC partners improve patient communication and care," says Mr. Coholan. "Our goal is to move patient data effectively and securely using technologies that are affordable for ASCs. We are working on a lot of innovative solutions to stay ahead of the curve and meet our customers' needs."
This article is sponsored by Simple Admit.