Mike Miliard, Managing Editor
Mike Miliard is Managing Editor at Healthcare IT News. Mike covers topics such as health information exchange, privacy and security, analytics and ICD-10. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMiliardHITN.
With the push of a button
June 2, 2011From the June 2011 print issue
TAMPA, FL – PhoneMyDoctor, a Louisiana-based telephony firm, debuted its flagship product in May at the American Telemedicine Association's annual conference and expo. It’s a deceptively simple piece of collaborative technology that offers physician practices the chance to save time, reduce costs, limit liability and increase billing opportunities.
"Developed for physicians, with physicians (and targeted at) effective, efficient telemedicine, (PhoneMyDoctor) is HIPAA-compliant, works with the physician's exiting phone system hardware and turns a multi-part patient encounter into a consolidated, accurate record, all in one phone call," said co-founder Paul Guillory, MD.
It works like this: Rather than using a traditional answering service, a doctor subscribes to PhoneMyDoctor for after-hours calls.
When a patient calls the physician's practice, he's put through a series of prompts that records necessary information, such the nature of his complaint.
The physician then receives a text notification from PhoneMyDoctor indicating that call. He or she then calls into PhoneMyDoctor with an 800 number specific to his or her practice.
On the same call, he or she can listen to the patient's complaint and either call him back, place a prescription with the patient’s pharmacy, or dial into his or her office to leave detailed follow-up instructions for treatment, to be acted upon the next day.
The call is recorded and sent back in a report to the physician. That can be added to the patient's medical records. In addition to the obvious benefit to the patient, it reduces the risk of physician liability, thanks to the added documentation it provides.
The automated system – which requires no new equipment or training – helps doctors reduce costs up front, while also providing additional billing opportunities on the back end.
It is "seemingly, from the user's perspective, a very low-tech offering," said PhoneMyDoctor's COO, John Dolak. "But the reality is the combination of technologies that went into creating this system" is fairly complex.
The patent-pending system combines technologies such as VoiceXML and interactive voice response packages. In addition, he said, "a combination of databases go into making this work, and then to keep it HIPAA-compliant adds another level of complexity.”
In development for years, there was "a lot of testing and experimenting to see if we could make all these technologies talk to each other seamlessly," he said. The result is a self-contained, intuitive (for both doctor and patient) system of prompts and cues.
"Doctors really hate the fact that, when taking after-hours calls, they need to hang up with the patient and then dial the pharmacy," Dolak said. Here, "all they have to do is say 'yes' when the system asks if they want to call in a prescription, and the system connects them with the pharmacy the patient selected."
Physicians who have signed on to the service love being able to deal with patient calls from the car, he said, and the fact that it frees up time after hours. They also like that it "doesn't cost any more than a traditional answering service."
(Patients, meanwhile, should like that it makes for more complete medical records. And, of course, "malpractice insurance companies love it because of the documentation," Dolak said.)
Kenneth L. Perego II, MD, a partner at Alexandria Urology Associates in Alexandria, La., is impressed. "It allows for improved patient tracking on the weekend," he said. "I am provided with a detailed list of patient telephone encounters from the weekend ensuring that no one falls through the cracks. I don't have to depend upon my pieces of paper that were previously filled with my scribble. I can depend upon the entire encounter being documented."
His patients like PhoneMyDoctor's convenience, too. They "have been very responsive to the system," he said. "It is well laid out and the prompts are easy to follow."
Perego said the system "provides them with an assurance that the correct information is being relayed. With the way the system is designed, it has actually made it easier for both myself and my patients."
While he hasn't yet integrated PhoneMyDoctor's documentation with his patients' EMRs, "that is the next step," he said. "Accuracy in the medical chart is always important and that is what this program provides.
The best part is that it will not take up anymore of my time on more documentation."
With decreased reimbursements and increased demands on physicians, Perego added, "I am sure it is only a matter of time before all telephone encounters are billed. This service is crucial in allowing us to do it."
Topics: Financial/Revenue Cycle Management, Network Infrastructure, American Telemedicine Association (ATA)