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70-practice Central Ohio Primary Care tells a digital imaging success story

Photo: Central Ohio Primary Care

Central Ohio Primary Care is an independent, physician-owned, primary care group with more than 70 practices and more than 400 physicians serving more than 400,000 patients. It also has three imaging centers around Columbus, and 10% of its physician practices provide in-office imaging capabilities.

THE PROBLEM

COPC needed more advanced radiology communication capabilities to run its practices more efficiently – and a system that would grow with the organization.

“Another significant challenge for COPC was moving hard film from office to office or physician to physician,” said Steve Saeger, manager of radiology services at Central Ohio Primary Care. 

“Even with CD-ROM transfer, immediate access remained a top concern. Lastly, paper scheduling was a tough operational issue with not being able to provide timely scheduling electronically – or access results for efficient sharing across providers.”

PROPOSAL

COPC needed a technology solution to replace the use of imaging CD-ROMs to provide advanced digital capabilities for much more efficient and effective imaging operations. Immediate needs required the implementation of a more advanced picture archiving and communication system (PACS). COPC needed to better manage communications with secure storage and imaging sharing across its practices for its 25,000 annual exams.

“Another critical need for operational efficiencies was the ability to migrate data and move away from paper scheduling,” Saeger remarked. “COPC required an enterprise software solution with PACS technology to improve provider and patient experiences to meet our patient care excellence standards.

“To support the organization’s continued growth, COPC also required a very stable system, so as to not experience downtime – even with upgrade installations,” he continued. “While upgrades can provide enhanced capabilities and practical tools for support that improve patient and provider experiences, installation issues or downtime significantly affect clinical operations.”

“Contacts across various health systems and practices are valuable in the initial digital transformation planning process; it’s important to learn from those that have experienced similar situations.”

Steve Saeger, Central Ohio Primary Care

In addition to system stability, COPC wanted a vendor to drive and advance digital imaging innovation. In COPC’s experience, it is critical that a vendor provide a dedicated support team so when support is needed, technology vendor team members are familiar with COPC’s practice and interface, helping more quickly with operations and IT staff – even making recommendations to catch issues on the front-end before they become problems, Saeger said.

“Communication is a key component of any vendor relationship, so COPC required strong communications as a primary consideration for technology vendor partners,” he said. “The ability to track details such as support tickets with resolution notes would also help more efficiently resolve issues if they occur again.”

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

A colleague of Saeger’s recommended Novarad, and that began an almost 20-year relationship.

“Through our partnership with Novarad, COPC eliminated its inefficient paper processes and cumbersome CD-ROM review of images,” Saeger explained. “One of the substantial benefits of Novarad is that it was founded and is still led by a radiologist. This clinical provider perspective keeps products and services aligned with the seamless communication capabilities required of modern imaging solutions to support accurate diagnosis and ongoing clinical progress monitoring.

“In addition to enhanced operational efficiencies, Novarad’s support was vital in the integration of COPC’s chosen electronic health records and Nuance PowerScribe 360, a real-time radiology reporting platform to enable high-quality radiology reports from physician dictation,” he added.

Paper scheduling also was eliminated with the implementation of the Nova RIS scheduling system for improved operational efficiencies. 

Not only did moving away from paper scheduling intuitively improve scheduling speed, Saeger noted, it also allowed COPC to operate with Modality Worklists in the technologies, in turn increasing the efficiencies of the technologists scanning and reducing the errors associated with the manual input of patient demographics into modality equipment.

“As a result of these incremental changes, COPC has effectively enhanced its clinical services and quality of care and created efficiencies across the organization,” he added.

RESULTS

COPC has seen patient volumes increase annually at a rate of 6-7% in part due to broader imaging system capabilities, effective cost containment and building interfaces with EHR vendors, Saeger reported.

“The interface process was simple, with reasonable costs,” he said. “COPC team members could make changes mid-stream that improved the results without additional costs. One of the most significant benefits to COPC is that the Novarad team always makes COPC feel like they are their top priority, in addition to the fact that Novarad is always looking out for COPC and its team, enabling us to reach the best outcomes and efficiency gains possible for our technology needs.”

COPC clinical specialists now can access imaging studies electronically, seamlessly and effectively connecting with other healthcare providers, he added. This is especially important in emergencies, such as when a patient is in the ER. Immediate access to imaging studies prevents duplication of imaging – which is safer for patients and more cost-effective for both patients and systems.

“COPC also is focused on population health initiatives, including cost versus expenses for patients, to deliver the best care options and improve the health of the populations they serve,” said Saeger. 

“COPC often uses Novarads’s comparison studies that are immediately accessible through secure web viewing capabilities so radiologists can review and provide diagnostic support to specialists – and save money and time by avoiding the duplication of imaging orders.”

ADVICE FOR OTHERS

“Make sure you are confident in your vendor selection,” Saeger advised. “Most likely, once you have a vendor in place, you are with them for the long haul, and it can be difficult to make a switch.

“Find a vendor that guides the process and offers the ability for database building for healthcare complexities, including procedures, CPT codes and schedules,” he continued. “A knowledgeable vendor should be able to take a database of information and build a program that works. For those that like to be more involved, the more hands-on experience you have in the build, the more you understand the system when you need to adjust or adapt to new circumstances.”

Every minute counts in patient care, so find a vendor that allows one “behind the curtain” so one can fix things quickly when patients need answers, he added.

“Don’t hesitate to dig into the details, be as involved as possible and understand every nuance of the system,” he said. “Find a vendor team that welcomes input and embraces the opportunity to work together as partners – always improving and enhancing services. As true partners, you should have a solid foundation of innovative digital technology – and a stable digital environment – so providers can take the very best care of patients without interruption due to technology concerns.”

And as technology continues to evolve, one should expect additional digital innovations and cost efficiencies to increase patient and provider satisfaction, he added.

“COPC’s goal is to work smarter with patient care through digital transformation and is proud of its current success in operational improvements for both patients and their business model,” Saeger said. “To help other providers prepare for such a transition, COPC invites organizations that are considering similar digital technology to visit our office so they can see the technology in action, ask questions about successful installations and integrations, and learn what to expect.

“I often share this advice: Pick a partner that will invest in your organization’s knowledge base for the best possible outcomes,” Saeger concluded. “Contacts across various health systems and practices are valuable in the initial digital transformation planning process; it’s important to learn from those that have experienced similar situations.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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