Unifying data and communicating digitally
“Because referrals are our lifeblood, we need to have as much data at our fingertips as we can get.”
Spence Southall, Practice Manager
- Founded in 1972
- 21 clinicians
- Serving 15 counties
About Abilene Bone & Joint
For more than 40 years, Abilene bone and Joint has provided medical care for all ages in the West Texas community. Committed to a simple goal of treating orthopedic problems, the highly respected surgeons have one goal in mind – returning patients to an active lifestyle; regardless if the goal encompasses competitive collegiate sports or simply walking the neighborhood.
Serving the citizens of 15 counties in the West Texas community since 1972, Abilene Bone & Joint has long had the mantra of continual evolution in order to meet the demands of their patients. No example is more evident of this than the fact that this orthopedic specialty group decided six years ago to add a walk-in clinic to go along with their orthopedic and physical therapy offices. ABJ’s decision to evolve and grow meant this underserviced area would now have the ability to receive care much quicker and more efficiently than ever before.
With the practice’s growth came growing challenges in keeping information all in one place and easily accessible across a wide range of staff needing access to it. “There was information all over this clinic instead of in a centralized place.” said ABJ’s Practice Manager, Spence Southall. “We were also tethered to the fax machine with literally hundred’s of faxes inundating us each day.” Attempts to consolidate all the data into a single location started with a single person updating a spreadsheet with read-only access for the rest of the staff, but that came with its own set of problems. Staff would answer calls from patients needing to make changes to their appointments and had to pass along to the single spreadsheet owner via sticky notes or conversations in passing, leading to a lot of confusion and miscommunication. To make matters worse, if the spreadsheet owner was not the first to access the document on a given day, they were now in read-only mode and would have to call other staff members to see who had the ability to edit to the document. needless to say, there were a lot of steps and people involved that made adhering to a streamlined process almost impossible.
As the practice manager, Spence was hoping that by consolidating the data he could utilize some insightful reporting to help get a finger on the pulse of referral activity and correct any of the practice’s potential workflow issues. “Because referrals are our lifeblood, we need to have as much data at our fingertips as we can get. Even with the data somewhat centralized, getting actionable reporting was a nightmare. there was no ability to quickly identify where a patient was in their scheduling process, how many referrals were not converting to appointments, or where the referrals were primarily coming from.” said Southall. As many offices do around the holidays, Abilene Bone and Joint would send out gifts to referring offices each year, but had a hard time identifying who those providers were sending the referrals, and which offices needed to be prioritized for in-person marketing visits. Spence would have to manually count the referrals from each provider because the spreadsheet wasn’t organized well enough to sort and tally columns or rows.
“There was information all over this clinic instead of in a centralized place.” said ABJ’s Practice Manager Spence Southall. “We were also tethered to the fax machine with literally 100’s of faxes inundating us each day.”
Realizing that this was a hard challenge to overcome on their own, Spence set out looking for options. He found several referral management tools out there that seemed to overpromise and underdeliver on things like integration, customization, and ease of use, while still relying on the fax machine. Things changed when a referral sent to him by a local provider via LeadingReach prompted him to call to learn more about what LeadingReach could do.
From that initial conversation and demo, he saw immediately how this could help address his challenges. “Even in the first few minutes of seeing LeadingReach, i was really impressed with how intuitive the platform was” southall said. Having lived through a few different integration disasters in his career, he loved the fact that LeadingReach didn’t have a complex and costly integration with their EHR but instead used Direct to achieve interoperability. He also enjoyed the ability to access the software from anywhere and with multiple staff logged in at the same time, solving a previous problem with the shared spreadsheet. The other massive challenge LeadingReach helped solve was getting everyone on the same page with a single, unified data source that was visible and accessible to everyone. Communication through the platform eliminated the need for sticky notes and ensured nothing slipped through the cracks.
“Even in the first few minutes of seeing LeadingReach, I was really impressed with how intuitive the platform was.”
After deploying LeadingReach, Abilene Bone & Joint saw a positive impact almost immediately by being able to identify bottlenecks in their processes and apply the proper fix, whether that be a change in the workflow or adding more resources at different steps in the process. After just a few short weeks of using LeadingReach, Spence noticed around 40% of referrals waiting for physician review, sometimes for several days, which led to a change in the workflow to help get those patients scheduled quicker. Utilizing custom statuses and tags allowed for some of the referrals that needed more information or special treatment easier to be identified and managed, ensuring they wouldn’t slip through the cracks.
Communication greatly improved as well. Previously Abilene Bone and Joint were operating 16 separate phone lines that were constantly ringing. About 30% of those conversations were questions related to a referral. the switch to LeadingReach meant all of that communication between referring offices and internally amongst staff moved away from the phone and fax to digital by utilizing LeadingReach’s network messenger. Now those lines and staff attending to them are freed up to spend more 1 on 1 time with patients or complete other tasks. Referring offices appreciated their use of LeadingReach too because they could check in on the status of a patient that was referred without having to pick up the phone.
Another huge benefit is the robust reporting they can get from LeadingReach. “Finally I’m able to see which providers are sending what type of patients and how many. I’ve been able to use this analysis to improve the mix of patient types we see by educating referring providers on all the different types of services we offer.” He says cash flow for the practice has increased greatly as providers now send more quality referrals that used to go elsewhere. Having complete visibility across the entire practice with dashboards and tools like the referral to appointment ratio, helps Spence measure how effective they are at getting a patient seen in a timely manner, something he had never dreamed was possible.
“Finally I’m able to see which providers are sending what type of patients and how many. I’ve been able to use this analysis to improve the mix of patient types we see by educating referring providers on all the different types of services we offer.”