It’s Monday morning. Your neck is aching. Your skis are hung up in the garage for what might be an indefinite amount of time. And you’re on hold with your orthopaedic surgeon.
This could be awhile.
“Orthopaedics, by its very nature, is such an unpredictable specialty,” said Siobhan Palmer, Director, Santa Monica Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Group.
The busy clinic, part of the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, sees a huge spike in call volume Monday mornings due to weekend accidents. Palmer wanted a system that would enable more communication pathways to quickly and painlessly reach patients at the time they need it most.
She found WELL.
Patient communication for orthopaedic doctors
WELL understands the unique challenges orthopaedic practices face. A diminishing surgeon workforce and an increasing number of patients needing orthopaedic care mean more work for physicians and shorter appointment times for patients.
Add in the last-minute schedule changes and you have an administrative headache.
Calls go unanswered. Patients get annoyed. Doctors and office staff shoulder the burden.
At least, that’s what we’ve heard from the many orthopaedic groups that have sought out WELL. Here are some of the primary issues ortho practices face and how we have helped address them.
Reduce high call volume
At St. Charles Orthopaedic Surgery Associates in St. Peters, Missouri, a glut of incoming phone calls about simple, non-clinical issues crowded the phone lines, preventing patients with more pressing issues from getting through.
That’s a problem — especially because people who are calling an orthopaedic surgeon are probably already having a pretty bad day.
“We are always thinking about how to improve communications with patients,” said Suzann Crowder, administrator at SCOSA. “They often contact our practice when they are at a low point.”
After implementing WELL’s bi-directional messaging capabilities, the busy practice saw a huge reduction in call volume. Automated messages provided answers to routine queries, such as “Where is your office located?” and staff could easily enter the conversation when necessary. This meant less stress for office staff and greater satisfaction from patients.
Handle last-minute scheduling
Whether they sustain injuries on the trails or in a car accident, orthopaedic patients often need last-minute appointments. Couple this with the realities any clinic faces — inclement weather, running behind schedule, or a physician calling in sick — and office staff needs a way to communicate last-minute changes quickly and easily.
Doctors at Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates see as many as 30 to 40 patients per day, so when a change arises, it’s especially challenging. Janis Hoppe, the practice’s subject matter IT expert described the situation this way, “We would have to try to contact every single patient at the very last minute. It’s incredibly disruptive to try to get ahold of that many patients.”
The Colorado-based practice implemented WELL and immediately saw staff workflows streamlined and workloads lightened. They also saw an increase in patient responsiveness. “For some reason, when we text them, we get a response immediately,” said Pam Bachorski, the clinic’s practice administrator.
WELL’s broadcasts feature allows practices to quickly select up to 1000 patients and send them all a customized message, which is great for last-minute schedule changes or notifications.
The no-show rate for orthopaedic follow-up appointments can be as high as 26 percent, according to a study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery in 2014. Those with spine and back complaints are the most likely to miss appointments. That results in lost revenue, more administrative work for staff, and less likelihood of attracting new patients — who are looking for those last-minute appointment slots.
In addition to reducing their call volume, SCOSA also saw a 50 percent reduction in no-shows and was able to increase patient bookings by 11 percent in the first quarter following implementation. “WELL is one of those rare solutions that makes the patient care experience better without breaking the bank,” Crowder said.
Improved Patient Experience
At Ortho Northeast, patients were asking for two-way communication and providing it through WELL allowed ONE to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace. They saw an impressive 96 percent patient utilization of WELL’s platform (can your portal say that?) and also saw no-shows cut in half.
Tia Brown, Appointment Reception Supervisor at ONE, said, “With the consumerization of healthcare, our patients now have more power than ever before. WELL allows us to focus on retaining them, making them happy, and most importantly focusing on our core competency.”
As for SMOG, the clinic was able to reduce call volume by 20 percent and nearly double the number of those calls answered to a much healthier 85 percent — meaning happier patients and maybe even a quicker return to the ski slopes. ♥
Pamela Ellgen is WELL’s Health Editor. She began her career in community journalism and is the author of more than a dozen published books. She is a graduate of Washington State University.