My father, Jeffry, and I manage our own dermatology practice in Colorado Springs. In addition to our genes, we share a lot in common: we were both in the military, and we had the same vision for the Colorado Dermatology Institute: a streamlined, full-service private practice that’s focused on providing attentive, personal care.
Unfortunately, our initial technology solutions – electronic health record (EHR) and practice management software – were too piecemeal to facilitate our vision. Furthermore, it felt as if we were being forced to practice medicine in the way that someone else has designed, which was just too hard to do.
We needed technology that would be flexible, customizable and scalable enough to allow us to implement the tenets of our unique practice style and spend more one-on-one time with patients while helping us achieve workflow and administrative efficiencies.
Maneuvering moving parts
At Colorado Dermatology Institute, which opened in 2010, we see up to 150 patients daily for a range of dermatologic issues from skin cancer to cosmetic concerns. Two physicians, five physician assistants and one esthetician focus on clinically treating the diverse patient population.
I personally find that practicing medicine is the easy part. The harder scope of our jobs is trying to make everything work from an HR perspective, from a compliance perspective, and from a billing perspective. There are so many moving parts of running a practice that you need to rely on an efficient, accountable vendor so that you can focus your energy on taking care of the patient. I’ve never met a physician who likes paperwork.
It was critical that we could personalize the documentation to fit our practice style and the providers’ needs. It’s no secret that reproducible notes generate reproducible results. The AdvancedMD integrated Rhythm platform has allowed us to reduce our administrative time to instead focus more on care delivery.
From what I’ve seen of independent practices, there are a lot of physicians out there who struggle with integration, using piecemeal software applications for various functions. They spend so much energy trying to make those systems work together, instead of focusing that energy on patients. I’m grateful to have everything under one roof now with full integration. It’s a brilliant system that has allowed us quite literally establish a rhythm and hit our stride.
With patient data access from anywhere and at any time, I am, without a doubt, more connected to my patients and their needs. It doesn’t matter if I’m at the clinic or at home, everything is at my fingertips: From drug interactions to pathology reports, it’s all in one spot so I can make the best possible decision for my patients.
Our EHR is also integrated with patient portal functionality, enabling enhanced patient engagement and proactive care—integral to the treatment of so many dermatologic conditions. The digital technology facilitates online bill pay; medical records and results retrieval; pre-arrival preparations for a more streamlined check-in; appointment scheduling, reminders, and adherence, among other functions.
Through the portal, our patients can get information quickly and we’ve become more efficient at scheduling, making sure the patient is roomed in a short amount of time. The reminders’ functionality has also helped us reduce our patient no-show rate. Worst case scenario, we used to experience eight no-shows out of about 140 daily patients. Today, we’re down to almost zero except during bad weather.
The portal also delivers the opportunity for our patients to communicate with our practice staff on their terms. Patients who aren’t very tech savvy can still speak with our staff personally about any needs, questions, or concerns. By focusing on communication in its various forms, we can provide better, easier and safer care.
To further our vision, we hired a patient care coordinator and refined our greeting practices so the patients feel welcomed and comfortable from the outset. We store patient photos in the EHR for identification functions, addressing the patients personally by name before escorting them back to their appointment, which makes them feel more relaxed.
Similarly, for billing, we’ve used the customer-focused and responsive AdvancedMD service to field patient questions and concerns about payments with great success.
I can’t think of a single patient complaint about billing questions because the representatives answer the phone and treat them well. It’s really a Ritz Carlton-type experience in terms of customer service, which helps us retain patients.
In addition to our vendor’s responsiveness to billing concerns, we also use a function that delivers various reports, giving us visibility into both claims and the billing company’s efforts. These show us if our billing company is doing what they’re supposed to do, or just grasping the ‘low-hanging fruit’ and letting the other thousands of dollars go in the wastebasket uncollected. We’ve found that the difference between software that’s cumbersome and software that works well equates to about 10 percent increased collections.
We keep up with our 30-, 60-, 90-, and 120-day AR, and have measured significant improvement from double digits to single digits. We’ve also been able to better negotiate the ever-evolving and challenging regulations imposed by the government to submit insurance claims in a timely manner. The integrated, holistic approach has created new opportunities for collections and growth and increased efficiencies in care for the patients.
With more insight and transparency into how our clinic functions, we’ve truly been able to turn our father-son vision into a reality. In addition to running an efficient practice, we take care of our staff and treat patients as if they are loved ones. In this increasingly rushed environment of healthcare, we’re using technology to make care personnel.
About the Author
Dr. Reagan Anderson is an Osteopathic Doctor (DO) who specializes in general Dermatology and in Mohs Micrographic Surgery for the treatment of skin cancer. Since opening the Colorado Dermatology Institute in July 2010, Dr. Anderson has been recognized as a Board Certified Dermatologist by the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology; as a Fellow Member of the American Society of Mohs Surgeons; and is one of approximately 40 Mohs surgeons in the U.S. to attain the prestigious American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology Certificate of Added Qualification in Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Dr. Anderson is on staff at Memorial and Penrose/St. Francis hospitals and is a member of the El Paso County Medical Society and the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation.