The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the daily lives and workflows of healthcare providers across the globe.
Whole Life Health Care in Newington, New Hampshire, is a family practice providing conventional medicine and complementary therapies. It needed advice on best practices to adjust to life during COVID-19 and continue treating patients safely and effectively. The team needed to create rapid-fire solutions to address the changes that happened seemingly overnight.
One of the challenges Whole Life faced during the onset of the pandemic was access to a reputable and efficient telehealth system to continue care for patients. Another challenge was how to leverage its digital billing platform to respond to the rapidly changing landscape of regulations and requirements around reimbursement.
Cloud-based IT vendor athenahealth leveraged its existing online platform, the Success Community, to enable its healthcare provider clients to connect with each other and exchange ideas during COVID-19.
“In addition to exchanging advice, the platform also acted as a central COVID-19 information hub with up-to-date regulatory information, workflow recommendations, and the promotion of new tools and enhancements designed to help address customer pain points related to COVID-19,” said Amy Coombs, an advanced registered nurse practitioner at Whole Life Health Care and founder and creator of the integrative medical concept Whole Life Health Care.
“Athenahealth’s clients frequently collaborated on topics such as telehealth solutions, revenue cycle management practices and ways to support their new remote patient experience,” she said.
"The team at Whole Life has learned so much from other healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re coming out stronger than before with new ideas on how to best serve our patients and improve safety measures."
Amy Coombs, Whole Life Health Care
The athenahealth Success Community platform not only worked to alleviate COVID-19 problems, but also showed providers the strength of the healthcare community during difficult times, Coombs added.
“Healthcare providers used the platform to come together and collaborate to combat similar issues, which led to empowering each other on how to address situations in a safe way,” she explained. “Ultimately, the platform’s goal was about making technology work for providers by leveraging a network of peers and allowing them to share on-the-ground experience and brainstorm solutions.”
There are many vendors with electronic health records systems on the health IT market today, including Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Epic, Greenway Health, HCS, Meditech and NextGen Healthcare.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Having access to the Success Community platform enhanced Whole Life’s workflows, as COVID-19 guidance changed daily, if not hourly. The platform was helpful in coming up with solutions to help fine-tune different processes at the clinic.
“Originally, starting out with different telehealth platforms such as FaceTime for virtual patient appointments, we switched to the athenaTelehealth solution for all telehealth visits in late spring,” Coombs said. “The team of clinicians at Whole Life thoroughly enjoys the athenaTelehealth solution as it allows us to meet with patients virtually and talk to them while having the ability to document at the same time, and offers an embedded image for video conferencing.”
So instead of having two split screens – one to chart and one to see the patient – with athenaTelehealth, the video image is inside the image of the chart, so the provider only has to look at one screen.
“The image also is movable, so the provider can reposition it, depending on what the chart view is,” Coombs explained. “During March, April and May, there were days our team would see 90% telehealth visits, so having a solution that was very easy helped our visits increase efficiency.”
Another asset the vendor provided to Whole Life during this time was a weekly conference call for athenahealth providers to discuss tips and learn about new digital tools such as billing solutions. The vendor put together a document on the different billing rules that were changing regularly – Whole Life could pull up that document when it needed to, and the vendor’s team was tracking this insurance information regularly.
At Whole Life Health Care, the advice has made a real difference, Coombs stated.
“The vendor’s team always has had our backs as business partners and the current situation is even more proof of that,” she said. “The demand on time, our ability to glean the most important information and make business decisions, then communicate that with staff has never been so tested. Additionally, athenaText, the mobile communication tool that allows the staff to exchange text messages and notifications, has never been so utilized.”
The combination of Whole Life staff and the support of athenahealth and its provider community helps the clinic gain ground on beating the challenges created from the coronavirus, she added.
“Not only has our staff been pleased with the vendor’s COVID-19 resources, but our patients also have been happy with the offerings, including the athenaTelehealth solution,” she said. “The solution has been a lifeline to us as we navigate uncharted territory while still seeing patients in a safe way.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
During difficult and unprecedented times, it’s important for healthcare providers to turn to their peers to learn from their similar challenges and best practices, Coombs advised. The healthcare community is filled with information and recommendations, and has created a strong sense of community, she said.
“Additionally, leveraging your EHR partner and solution can provide unexpected, helpful resources for any practice,” she concluded. “The team at Whole Life has learned so much from other healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re coming out stronger than before with new ideas on how to best serve our patients and improve safety measures.”