Transforming Patient Services with the Right Digital Health Solution for FQHCs
Tashfeen Ekram, MD
Perhaps now more than ever, Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are exceedingly important as they serve patients from lower-income, multigenerational households without adequate insurance coverage. These highly vulnerable patients face a higher burden of chronic diseases and are at an increased risk of COVID-19 as many of them work on the frontline as essential workers.
We recently sat down with Evelin Portillo, Systems Manager at GPW Health Center (a leading multi-specialty FQHC with three clinics locations in North Virginia closer to the DC Metropolitan Area), to learn how they used Luma Health’s total patient engagement platform to ensure every eligible patient get the care they need by addressing the barriers standing in the way, while reducing their staff’s administrative burden.
Here are a few key points:
1. Improving access to care by automating patient services such as: appointment scheduling, reminders and waitlist management.
In the past, Evelin’s three-member call center team at GPW worked eight hours each day to respond to 1000+ inbound calls, most of which were by patients to schedule their appointments. This was no easy feat, considering that the team was parallelly making appointment reminder calls to all patients to reduce no-shows, and managing waitlists using spreadsheets to backfill canceled appointments.
The result? Overwhelmed patient services staff, a long list of patients waiting to seek care, and a high rate of no-shows resulting in lost revenues.
With Luma Health’s Patient Scheduling solution, GPW gave their patients the convenience of text-based online self-scheduling, thereby drastically reducing the volume of inbound phone calls. Luma’s interactive, automated, and multilingual Appointment Reminders eliminated the need to make manual reminder calls to patients while dramatically reducing now-show rates. In addition, Luma’s Smart Waitlist digitized the waitlist management by automatically offering canceled appointments to the next patient waiting in line for the exact appointment type, provider, and location. Seamless, real-time integration with GPW’s EHR further helped streamline the outreach efforts while improving operational workflows.
“Our results after switching to text messages exceeds our expectations. It translated into more patients getting care, and led to our growth.”
End result: getting patients faster to care and maintaining the continuum of care for every patient, a happier staff, and $30,000+ in additional revenues from additional appointments filled by automated waitlists in just seven months!
Watch this recording of Luma Health’s 2-part webinar on ‘No More No Shows’ to see how to fill your schedules and keep them filled.
2. Improving access to care by simplifying new patient registration process.
Another process crushing Evelin’s call center team at GPW was registering new patients. The team was shipping physical welcome kits to new patients, including necessary registration forms. The process involved manually extracting the list of new patients every week, putting together the welcome kits, stamping them, weighing them, and shipping them out, with the hope that the patients would fill the required forms and remember to bring them on the day of their appointment.
The process was tedious, time consuming, and expensive. Many physical kits never reached their intended patients on time. Even if they did, the patients would invariably forget to bring back the documents to their appointments, thus filling them out at the front desk, again.
“Luma has been a stepping stone for getting the center more digital, vs. having more people at the front desk.”
Luma Health’s Mobile Patient Intake solution automated the process by sending new patients text messages with embedded forms, links to download brochures, and other details, thus eliminating physical kits. Patients could easily complete the forms, upload documents, and provide authorizations, as needed, on their phones, which was then verified by the patient services team before the patient came in for an appointment. The team could also flag missing patient information or incomplete forms, and send reminders to the patient through chats to take necessary action, thus reducing the front desk load.
3. Improving access to care by offering financial assistance.
Evelin and her team knew that the biggest reason patients did not show up for their appointments was because of their inability to pay for them, and that discounts can help get these patients through the clinic’s doors.
To operationalize these discounts, GPW set up a manual process to verify the patient’s eligibility to avail the financial assistance. However, the process involved having patients make an additional visit to the clinic to complete their paperwork, before coming in on the day of their appointment. This also meant patients could lose out on the financial assistance if they missed bringing any document. Meanwhile, the front desk was overwhelmed, processing all the paperwork to screen for eligibility.
“Luma helped us ensure that every eligible patient at GPW gets the care they need, without barriers to care standing in the way.”
Luma’s self-screening surveys enabled the team at GPW to automate the process by setting up a simple 10-question online screener to qualify patients for the discounts, based on their financial status and healthcare needs. Once qualified, Evelin’s patient services team used secure chat to collect additional documents or share more information with the eligible patients, ahead of their appointment. This resulted in a drastic reduction in front desk load, with patients having to make one less visit to the clinic, with further minimization in patient-generated errors.
Here is an example of how self-screening works (this one’s for COVID, but can be customized for your specific use case)
4. Improving access to care by offering transportation.
One challenge that became more acute during the pandemic was the high rate of no-shows coming from patients who lacked transportation to access care in person, as patients no longer felt safe using public transport.
GPW rose to the challenge and set up a transportation team with three riders and a coordinator, to offer rides to patients in need. The coordinator used mapping apps to estimate the time taken to reach the patient, and then used Luma’s chat to inform patients on the estimated time of arrival, share vehicle and rider details, and even share actual pictures of the vehicle, if needed. Additionally, the coordinator used Luma Chat to inform the patients once they arrived, and share their exact location.
“We are doing 400+ rides each month and are proud to be the only health center in Northern Virginia to offer transportation to the patients in need, who would otherwise miss receiving care.”
Evelin’s patient services team at GPW changed from being just a contact center managing patient communications, to becoming the in-house collections department responsible for managing essential medical and patient records.
The front desk staff was reduced from six to three, who were added to the new patient services department (which became a six-member team!)
GPW was able to utilize the insights and reports generated from Luma to get better at state and federal audits, which are crucial to maintaining the funding metrics and receive grants needed by FQHCs to operate, as federal grants get more tied to value-based care and health outcomes.
2021 and Beyond for GPW Patient Services
Armed with Luma’s total patient engagement platform, Evelin has ambitious goals in mind for transforming patient services and care for GPW in 2021 and be recognized as THE community health care provider that offers access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. Her biggest priority is to figure out ways to use Luma to develop deeper patient relationships so that patients can express their concerns or constraints to receiving care (like financial crunch, for example) so that the clinic can find ways to help them.
Also on her priority is analyzing reports generated by Luma for implementing measurable process efficiencies while understanding areas that need optimization. And, of course, finding ways to leverage Luma for streamlining COVID-19 vaccine operations and administration, once the vaccine becomes available.
Her advice to other clinics embracing digital is simple- with thousands of solutions out there, choosing the right technology can make a world of difference. The important thing is to make sure that the selected technology is not causing more work for the clinic staff
Providing affordable access to high quality care across specialties is GPW’s ultimate mission, and our partnership with Luma Health ensures this can be achieved in a way that is easily implementable and patient-first,” Evelin concluded.
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