CareTeam enables whole-patient care approach with athenahealth EHR – Healthcare IT News

Vendor athenahealth’s telemedicine capabilities linked to its EHR have come in especially handy for primary care organization CareTeam during the pandemic.
Photo: CareTeam
CareTeam is a primary care organization that partners with employers to operate on-site, near-site and shared-site clinics for employees. It takes a personalized approach to care, as well as a whole-patient approach.
For example, its clinics’ providers also are certified health coaches who help patients develop personalized preventative care plans. This approach to care enables employees to schedule comprehensive appointments for anything from sick visits to annual exams, and allows for significant cost savings when it comes to insurance plan costs for both employers and individual employees.
“About three-and-a-half years ago, we were looking to further scale our business across myriad, diverse markets, and were searching for a cloud-based EHR for multiple reasons,” said Scott Parks, president and co-founder of CareTeam. “First, knowing that quick implementation promotes scalability, we needed a system that we could implement quickly across multiple locations.
“We also wanted to better coordinate patient care across our multiple clinics and gain visibility into overall practice management and performance,” he continued. “Because our clinics operate in both rural and urban communities, the ability to access patient data quickly and efficiently in one place via an EHR was imperative to our growth.”
Additionally, CareTeam places a heavy focus on addressing patients’ whole health.
“We aim to improve their mental and physical wellbeing and lifestyle habits through our behavioral health specialists and nutrition counselors,” Parks noted. “To achieve this, we also needed an EHR that simplified access to patient data to better inform holistic care, and could help us better engage patients in their care.
“We turned to athenahealth to help us grow and assist with improving operations at our clinics across the nation,” he continued. “At the time, we were operating five clinics. Now we’ve grown to 22 clinics.”
Additionally, working with athenahealth allowed CareTeam to advance its whole-patient approach to care, which was pushed to the forefront amid the pandemic as COVID-19 placed a greater focus on the importance of effectively treating comorbidities.
The ability to access the EHR from anywhere and the visibility into performance and practice operations was imperative to the business model’s success, Parks explained.
“Implementing athenahealth would equip us to quickly scale our practice nationally,” he said. “Additionally, the vendor’s [cloud-based] product would operate much more efficiently than an on-premise solution and we could avoid the hassle of managing server rooms and onsite IT specialists.
Scott Parks, CareTeam
“From a clinical perspective, our chief medical officer was impressed by how athenahealth would streamline clinician workflows and help increase the quality of visits, ultimately creating a stronger patient experience.”
The EHR vendor’s open API framework was a major factor in CareTeam’s decision to ultimately implement its technology since it would allow the provider to integrate other beneficial technology systems from athenahealth’s Marketplace into the athenaOne platform.
“The vendor’s interface also would allow us to access patient data that painted a more holistic picture of our patients’ health, aligning with our commitment to the whole-patient care model,” Parks explained. “This would enable our caregivers to proactively develop personalized care-gap plans, and more easily identify at-risk patients with comorbidities who would benefit from a check-in with our clinicians.”
There is a wide variety of electronic health record vendors on the market today. Some of these vendors include Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Epic, Greenway Health, Medicomp Systems, Meditech, Medsphere Systems and NextGen Healthcare.
CareTeam used athenahealth’s EHR technology to operate more clinics and scale its business. It got its clinicians up to speed on the technology quickly and did not need to carve out large amounts of training time because of the technology’s usability, Parks said.
“Even when the pandemic hit, we were able to adapt our operations seamlessly and continue growing, opening four new clinics amid the pandemic,” he noted. “Additionally, the vendor started offering an integrated telehealth product in the spring of 2020 that allowed us to provide more efficient, higher quality care to our remote patients.
“Before this, our patients had to log on to a separate, nonproprietary system for a telehealth visit,” he continued. “athenaTelehealth was extremely valuable for us in the height of the pandemic since our clinicians could facilitate telehealth visits without having to leave the EHR platform, and patients could schedule telehealth visits directly in the patient portal, creating a more seamless experience compared to the previous technology we were using.”
CareTeam also implemented a tool from the athenahealth Marketplace to help with population health management; Parks says it has proven extremely beneficial.
“The tool takes registration information from athenaOne and automatically populates it into the EHR with no additional effort needed from the clinician,” he explained. “This ultimately creates a one-stop-shop that gives clinicians a complete picture of a patient’s health status and risk profile.
“We also started using the vendor’s interoperability features through the Health Information Exchanges and Commonwell Alliance to help better coordinate our patient’s care and prevent unnecessary or wasteful visits and tests for the patients, as we have better insight into their care across the healthcare ecosystem,” he added.
The pandemic also accelerated CareTeam’s commitment to the whole-patient care model. COVID-19 highlighted how important it is to effectively treat underlying conditions like diabetes or obesity.
With its EHR, it was able to access patient data that gave it insight into patients’ holistic health and lifestyle patterns. This informed behavioral and nutrition counseling services, which has seen a significant increase in utilization. Many clinicians in this space now are at 100% capacity.
CareTeam has seen many positive results from implementing the EHR and its related technologies. For example, the average patient satisfaction score is 98%.
“Our patient satisfaction scores are exceptional because we place inherently great providers in an incredible practice environment where they can spend as much time with a patient as is needed,” Parks said. “CareTeam’s advanced primary care model facilitates more accessible care, longer patient appointments and a concierge-level experience. All of these factors add up to an exceptional patient experience.”
The patient portal adoption rate is 63%. “Our patient portal is heightened through athenahealth’s technology,” Parks said. “Tools like text communication for appointment reminders and self-scheduling capabilities that integrate directly with the EHR make it easier for our patients to have better experiences.”
CareTeam also has found that it has better patient outcomes and quality metrics when it is able to create health incentives in the employer health plan that encourage employees to undergo a “health risk identifying task,” such as an annual physical or biometric screening.
That often allows CareTeam to index the health risk of an employer population at large and allow its clinical teams to “activate” a personal relationship with patients so they can place them on disease-specific, individualized care plans.
“In health centers that operate these annual incentives, we’re able to engage with 75-85% of eligible populations on patient-centered care plans versus only 45-55% of the eligible population when there are no incentives,” Parks added.
Parks offers three major pieces of advice to healthcare provider organizations evaluating their technology stack.
“Prioritize flexibility and adopt technology that enables it,” he said. “The pandemic highlighted the need for healthcare organizations to be flexible and underscored the importance of having a flexible technological infrastructure to adapt.
“To enhance both the provider and patient experience, modern healthcare organizations need to have technology with API connections that enable them to integrate with third-party applications and exchange data across systems and within the users’ native workflow, and simply explore clinical and financial data.”
On another front, user experience matters, he advised.
“There’s no doubt healthcare providers have long been overwhelmed by data entry and clerical tasks amid their clinical responsibilities,” he observed. “Consider adopting technology that lessens the administrative burden for providers and enhances their clinical workflows.
“EHR technology should enable providers to access and enter data through simple interfaces that limit the number of clicks or prompts as much as possible,” he continued. “When healthcare organizations can remove administrative burden with the right kinds of technology, they’ll drastically improve the provider experience and be able to drive better healthcare outcomes for patients.”
Finally, look for technology partners with product roadmaps that are pushing further and faster into value-based care solutions, Parks said.
“Value-based care is here to stay, and we’ve seen positive health outcomes through our dedication to treating our patients holistically,” he noted. “We’ve experienced first-hand how technology can put actionable and insightful data into the hands of clinicians to drive the delivery of high-quality, comprehensive care.
“When evaluating potential solutions, look for partners who are constantly innovating their solutions and dedicated to advancing value-based care through their technology,” he concluded.
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