Summit Medical Group earns 70% portal use among patients
Consumers live online, but as patients, much of the work to book appointments or find out test results is still done over the telephone.
Summit Medical Group and Summit Health Management in New Providence, New Jersey, has been working to change that, signing up patients for its athenahealth portal at health fairs and while they’re sitting in the waiting room.
“They demand to do things online and in a faster way,” Summit’s CIO Paul Shenenberger said, “whether it’s to book an airline ticket or to schedule a doctor’s appointment.”
Summit boasts an estimated 70-percent patient portal adoption for its 400,000 active patients, compared to other provider offices that have compliance in the 5-10 percent range, according to Shenenberger.
A full third of business is now done through the portal.
“For us it’s a communications vehicle,” Shenenberger said. “They can communicate with physicians, do online scheduling. They can also pay their bill, and we can communicate lab results directly to the patient. They don’t have to wait for a phone call from the office.”
Abnormal lab results are still communicated by telephone, he said.
Financially, the portal’s ability to allow patients to pay a bill online has brought down the number of days those bills remain in accounts receivable.
“That’s where a third of patient payment is coming from,” Shenenberger said. “Most of our offices no longer accept cash.”
To achieve these results required a united front of everyone working together, from the administration to office personnel and especially the 675 physicians on staff, Shenenberger said.
“Physician leadership is crucial,” he said. “You can’t say, you have to do this. Now it’s just part of the day-to-day.”
Summit developed the patient portal three years ago as a way to meet the standards of meaningful use for electronic health records.
“We realized it was wasted just to check a box for compliance,” he said. “As part of the launch, we wanted it for patient benefit. It was really about moving from a regulatory checkbox, about taking that baseline requirement, to ‘let’s give real strategic value.’”
The patient portal has become the new consumerism.
“I don’t see that trend changing,” Shenenberger said. “Patients will be demanding a patient portal as part of the selection of a physician.”
Summit mandated in 2016 that providers who had less than 50 percent of their schedules booked,must put a way to schedule on the portal. For 2017, the goal is expanding to have a full 30 percent of all appointments booked online in part because online scheduling has shown to increase patient satisfaction.
“Consumers aren’t asking for it, they’re demanding it,” he said, "especially the millennials.”
Schenenberger will be presenting along with athenahealth chief medical officer Todd Rothenhaus in the HIMSS17 session “Patient engagement and financial health: A roadmap,” on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at 11:30 to 12:30 p.m. EST in Tangerine Ballroom F3.
HIMSS17 runs from Feb. 19-23, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center.
This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.