Patient appointment scheduling jumps 131% with new IT at UAB Medicine

This case study examines how patients are spending 273 percent more time booking appointments on the UAB Medicine website, a big win for the goal of boosting patient access.
By Bill Siwicki
01:18 PM
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UAB Medicine Jefferson Tower exterior view at night

UAB Medicine’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama

THE PROBLEM
Health system UAB Medicine, with its flagship 1,157-bed UAB Hospital on the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus, needed to solve what it called “the patient access paradox” – where patients are told to wait weeks, if not months, to see a caregiver despite the fact that as many as 30-40 percent of appointment slots are actually empty or poorly used across the health system.

PROPOSAL
UAB Medicine began searching for a vendor that shared its vision and goal of getting every patient to the right provider the first time – and to solve the crippling supply and demand mismatch problem that challenged the health system. Multichannel patient access technology vendor Kyruus proposed it could enable UAB Medicine to optimize patient access across all points of entry into the health system, with the same provider data appearing in each channel.

MARKETPLACE: Patient acess and scheduling tech
In addition to Kyruus, vendors include Acuity Scheduling, AdvancedScheduling, BookingBug, CLIN1 Scheduling, Kareo, PracticeSuite, QGenda and Q-nomy.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE
In 2016, UAB Medicine began implementing the Kyruus ProviderMatch Enterprise-Wide Solution, which includes: a provider search engine for precise patient-provider matching; comprehensive, up-to-date provider profiles; online appointment scheduling; a provider data management platform; and in-application access channel and provider network analytics.

 Step 1: “The first challenge was the critical need to present accurate, reliable and updated provider data to both internal and external consumers,” said Andy Hare, associate vice president of access services at UAB Medicine. 

The platform enabled UAB to enrich and maintain its provider directory and content via online tools and a proprietary clinical taxonomy to engage clinicians in the configuration of their profiles, helping boost data accuracy by involving those who know it best, Hare added. 

Step 2: “With our provider data management platform now in play, in late 2017, we launched ProviderMatch for Access Centers and ProviderMatch for Consumers,” Hare said. Features such as smart search enable consumers to find and match appointments while based on a variey to non-clinical criteria, such as gender, language and location, 

Next up: This will ultimately result in more satisfied patients, more fulfilled providers and a higher-performing health system, Hare contended. With clear visibility into providers’ areas of clinical expertise and availability across the network, UAB Medicine no longer is overly reliant on the most well-known providers, avoiding unnecessary appointment lag times and uneven demand distribution, he said.

“Internally, ProviderMatch streamlined the provider search process for our access center agents, replacing manual workflows with technology that enables dynamic provider search, availability search and direct appointment scheduling,” he said.

RESULTS
Prior to implementing the technology, UAB Medicine had three key goals: Improve patient experience and satisfaction, optimize network utilization, and standardize provider data management. Hare reported success in all three areas.

Consumers are spending more than 3 minutes on the website versus 53 seconds before – a 273 percent increase in consumer time spent on the UAB Medicine website. 93 percent of UAB Medicine providers have specialty or sub-specialty – scope of practice – completed on their profiles. There has been a 131 percent increase in new appointment form submissions. And there have been 9,000 new appointments requested.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
“Validating scope of practice for 1,800 providers is a challenge, especially in departments or divisions with hundreds of providers, for example, the department of medicine,” Hare said. “Physician and department leaders initially view this as a lot of work, oftentimes due to the absence of any formalized scope of practice document prior to build.”

Moreover, leaders are reluctant to use the online validation and approval approach to manage which providers are in scope or out of scope for certain conditions or diseases, he added. Instead, most prefer exporting the lists to Microsoft Excel and manually reviewing; however, this is a more cumbersome and tedious process, he said.

“While this is not a limitation of the Kyruus software, physician and executive leaders perceive this as an administrative burden that should be removed,” Hare said. “Therefore, we continue to partner with Kyruus to consider alternate or revised scope of practice validation solutions.”

ADVICE FOR OTHERS
First, use the resources available from the vendor in planning and developing messaging and communication to physician and executive leaders, Hare advised.

“Second, involve and engage key physician and executive leaders in the process from start to implementation,” he continued. “Finally, accept and embrace the fact that cultural traditions will disrupt the conversation; however, find and engage your physician innovators – your physician and executive leaders that understand consumers are no longer willing to accept the lack of digital and online options in healthcare, and bring them into the conversation.”

Any healthcare organization that doesn’t appreciate the value and importance of technologically simplifying access and experience will simply not be able to compete in the near future, he warned.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com