Improving referrals, communication and business intelligence with an integrated, configurable platform.

“We have saved across the board – we’ve saved time, money, phone calls and even paper and, most importantly, we’ve done so while improving the experience for our patients.”

Shayla Nation, Manager, Central Operations

  • Founded in 1997
  • 25 physicians
  • 7 locations
About South Alamo Medical Group

The South Alamo Medical Group was founded in 1997 by Dr. Trevino and Dr. Ross to provide medical care to patients in areas of San Antonio that lacked Primary Care Physicians (PCPs).

Since then, the group has grown to seven offices and 25 physicians, including the Southeast, Northwest and downtown areas of San Antonio. With physicians and physician extenders focused on pediatrics, family, geriatrics, and internal medicine, South Alamo Medical is committed to providing personable health care, practicing primary prevention and achieving the best health outcomes for patients and their families.

The Challenge

South Alamo Medical Group was built on a patient-first philosophy and remains committed to providing high-touch, personalized care for all patients. However, despite the strong patient-provider relationships established, physicians and office staff struggled to keep tabs on their patients once they’ve left the office for a specialist referral. With about 17 referral coordinators, each sending around 30 referrals a day, demand was high. The front office staff had a spreadsheet-based system for tracking referral progress, but without a means to effectively communicate with external providers, it proved to be inefficient and at the end of the day, ineffective.

“We had a system for reaching out to patients at the 30, 45 and 60-day mark, but it was really hard to make that connection and actually get through to close the referral loop,” said Shayla Nation, Manager, Central Operations at South Alamo Medical Group. “It was honestly just a mess all around.”
This lack of visibility also led to a lack of accountability. Because most provider communication took place via fax, it was hard for the group to tell if a referral, medical record or patient insurance information was sent, when it was sent or if someone dropped the ball completely.

“We first heard about LeadingReach and the LeadingReach Network from one of our specialists, and we immediately wanted to find out more,” said Nation. “As soon as we began testing out the free version of the platform, we knew pretty quickly that it was the answer to the challenges we’d been having.”

“We had a system for reaching out to patients at the 30, 45 and 60-day mark, but it was really hard to make that connection and actually get through to close the referral loop. It was honestly just a mess all around.”

The Solution

After a short discovery phrase, South Alamo Medical Group implemented LeadingReach across all seven locations and the improvement was almost instantaneous.

“While there was initial apprehension from our staff about learning new technology, our internal team quickly recognized the value of digitizing patient referrals,” said Nation. “Not only did we have the pleasure of parting ways with our convoluted spreadsheets, but it took less than 2-3 weeks for our providers and staff to feel confident using the new platform. Since adopting the technology, our streamlined workflow has allowed staff to focus efforts on more pertinent tasks like keeping a pulse on which in-network physicians are accepting new patients and providing a consistent overall experience, instead of getting bogged down with calls and paperwork.”

The group can finally manage inbound and outbound referrals efficiently through a centralized platform that houses all relevant information like patient records and insurance information. Additionally, staff members can communicate in real-time with external providers to confirm that referred appointments are taking place in a timely manner. They are also able to send and assign tasks and notes internally as well as externally with specialists.

“Tasks and reporting initiatives that used to take us at least 30 minutes now take us five minutes,” said Nation. “The increase in overall efficiency is remarkable.”

In-network specialists that worked with the group were hesitant at first about the new software. However, they quickly got on board when introduced to the simplistic nature of the platform and undeniable benefits.

“We really laid the groundwork and told our specialists, ‘you’re going to keep having issues with referrals until you get on LeadingReach.’” Nation said. “It took some convincing in the upfront, but once they interacted with the platform and saw the results first-hand, they were quick to get on board.”

LeadingReach functions as a configurable communication tool, allowing specialists to share information in a more coordinated way and eliminating the need for staff to wrestle with the limitations of their EHR or the EHR of their specialists. Essentially, LeadingReach is an interoperability solution that serves as an overarching means of communication, transcending the complex and inconvenient obstacles associated with data-sharing using most EHR platforms.

In addition to the referral management capabilities, South Alamo Medical Group also utilizes LeadingReach’s patient engagement features like pre-appointment messages and reminders. This has helped them easily keep patients informed and engaged and saved on the resources and time associated with mailed appointment cards and other marketing collateral.

“The patient engagement tools help us communicate exactly what we want to say to patients, so our messaging is organized and customized as needed, which saves us time and ensures the patient is fully informed,” said Nation. The team also uses the post-appointment survey tool to keep track of patient satisfaction on an ongoing basis.

“Tasks and reporting initiatives that used to take us at least 30 minutes now take us five minutes. The increase in overall efficiency is remarkable.”

The Results

“Our team and group of extended specialists have all felt the positive impact of LeadingReach,” said Nation. “In using the technology, we were able to cut down our referral processing time from 7–10 days via a fax machine, to less than 72-hours.”

By increasing visibility into internal workflow, operations and job responsibilities, LeadingReach has also helped Nation and team discover insights about business efficiency and identify areas in need of improvement. Overall, this insight has allowed the practice to reallocate job responsibilities and streamline operations, positioning it for continued growth, efficiency and patient satisfaction.

Perhaps one of the most notable improvements was in the measurement and tracking of services provided by the LeadingReach software. For example, by leveraging the platform’s extensive reporting capabilities, Nation discovered that the practice was referring out many podiatry appointments for simple procedures like nail trimming. By bringing this service in house, not only has the practice increased revenue, but patients appreciate the ability to receive treatment from their PCP without the need to visit another physician.

“In addition to deciding to bring nail trimming in house, we also discovered that some of our patients were experiencing extremely high wait time for endocrinology appointments,” said Nation. “We never would’ve had that level of insight without LeadingReach and were easily able to fix the problem by making some staff adjustments.”

The team is also able to tailor patient communication to ensure they are engaging patients via their preferred means. For instance, if staff notice that a patient isn’t opening their appointment reminder texts, the team can pivot to a reminder method that best suits the needs of that particular patient, such as email or phone call.

Nation believes that LeadingReach has enabled South Alamo Medical Group’s PCPs to provide better care for their patients by acting as healthcare shepherds, guiding patients along their care journey and ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

“Because we’re interacting with our specialist offices on an ongoing basis, we know exactly where our patients are in their care journey,” explained Nation. “We’re able to see if a patient didn’t show up for an appointment and can follow up with them to understand the reasoning. If the patient is concerned that the cost of the appointment will be prohibitive, for example, we can strategize with them to find an alternative solution instead of finding out months or years later that they skipped out on follow-up care that our providers determined was critical.”

Providers at South Alamo Medical Group are now confident in the fact that patients are being monitored and cared for through every step of their healthcare journey. Specialists feel the difference, too – they know when they receive a referral from the South Alamo Medical Group, they’re going to have all the information they need every time.

“At the end of the day, we have saved across the board – we’ve saved time, money, phone calls and even paper,” said Nation. “And, most importantly, we’ve done so while improving the experience for our patients.”

“The patient engagement tools help us communicate exactly what we want to say to patients, so our messaging is organized and customized as needed, which saves us time and ensures the patient is fully informed.”