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Cloud EHR giant athenahealth offers a sneak peek at its HIMSS22 strategy

Photo: athenahealth

Cloud-based health IT vendor athenahealth is among the giants in the field of electronic health records, the lynchpin system in healthcare information technology. It concentrates on the ambulatory market.

The vendor will be exhibiting at the HIMSS22 Conference & Exhibition in March, and it has a lot to serve up to attendees. Some of its focus will be on what it calls an “unprecedented” set of new features and products it has recently released.

Keeping up with industry change

“As a cloud-based healthcare products and services provider, we continuously release new functionality and new products into production, which we unveil to all our customers three times per year,” explained Paul Brient, chief product officer at athenahealth.

“This enables customers to keep up with industry change – without burdensome upgrades – and seamlessly scale their technology with their organization’s growth.”

At HIMSS22, the vendor will highlight much of the functionality it has brought to its customers over the past several months to help them improve their clinical and financial performance and empower their patients to collaborate in their health and wellbeing.

“We’ll highlight our new Insights Dashboard, which offers practices a dynamic way to explore their revenue cycle performance and discover actions they can take to improve performance by visualizing key metrics in one location,” Brient noted. 

“By leveraging the power of the athenahealth nationwide network, the dashboard also gives practices unique insight into the performance of their organization compared to similar practices across the country.

“We’ll showcase tailorable clinical workflows that adapt to individual provider needs, helping them document more efficiently and improve care quality,” he continued. “Some of the most meaningful enhancements recently made to our EHR include the ability for clinical administrators to configure the intake checklist by specialty and appointment type, an intuitive and streamlined social history experience, and a single-page, customizable encounter workflow that removes unnecessary steps for clinicians to conduct quick, lower-complexity visits.”

Self-scheduling functionality

In order to help practices expand patient access to care, ensure greater schedule density, and acquire and retain more patients, while reducing staff time and call volume for scheduling appointments, athenahealth has enabled practices to offer self-scheduling functionality to patients on the web, in the patient portal, or via email, social media and search.

“We reimagined our patient payment workflows across desktop and mobile devices into a more modern and intuitive front-end and integrated our highly utilized online patient payment app into athenahealth.com to drive ease of use and patient confidence,” Brient said. “This enables patients to easily make payments, decreases work for the practice, and improves patient pay yield.

“We’re also focused on ensuring our customers succeed under all reimbursement models by making it easier for them to participate in value-based care,” he continued. “Thus, we have given providers unparalleled insight into their quality performance, and delivered new workflows to help them achieve exceptional quality outcomes and meet regulatory compliance.”

With administrative simplification a top priority for practices, the vendor launched a suite of enhanced revenue-cycle services that wick away a significant amount of administrative burden from providers and staff, giving organizations the freedom to drive efficiency, to scale and to focus on higher-value work, he added. 

The suite of services seamlessly integrates with daily workflow. It includes fast, accurate medical coding, authorization management, and complex claims and denial resolution, he said.

Accelerate growth, cultivate high performance

All the athenahealth staff members on the exhibition floor will be sharing a common message with attendees.

“HIMSS attendees will walk away with an understanding of how athenahealth helps practices accelerate growth and cultivate high performance through our connected ecosystem and unique partnership model,” Brient explained. 

“We will bring this narrative to life in our booth, where attendees will experience short theater presentations, interactive demonstrations, original research exhibitions and product overviews.”

Some of the specific themes vendor staff will address include:

  • Driving performance improvements through insights unlocked from the largest connected network in healthcare. athenahealth says it connects its customers with best practices and benchmark insights to help drive financial and clinical performance. These insights encompass revenue cycle performance, clinical documentation and patient experience.
  • Purpose-built connectivity to deliver a differentiated healthcare experience for providers and allow them to better meet their patients where they are. To provide the best possible provider experience, the vendor builds clinician workflows and connects all players in healthcare – providers, payers, patients and partners – to seamlessly exchange data and surface relevant clinical information exactly when providers need it, Brient said.
  • An RCM portfolio that optimizes financial performance. athenahealth offers expertise in revenue cycle management. Brient says that it understands healthcare organizations’ complexity, financial goals, ongoing staffing challenges and back-office burnout, and that it offers a portfolio of solutions and services that match their needs today and that grow as their businesses expand and evolve.

Looking ahead in 2022

As the vendor continues to support the distinct needs of providers and aid in EHR usability, one of the main ways it will see EHRs evolve is through artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will greatly improve workflows and the clinician-patient experience, Brient said.

“These technologies will continue to help get the EHR ‘out of the way’ of the patient-provider experience and reduce the administrative burden on providers, while ensuring they focus on the most relevant and actionable patient information,” he explained. “With advanced machine learning models’ capabilities to learn user behavior and recognize and predict patterns over time, providers will be able to do their jobs with more ease.

“For example, if providers make the same orders based on a given diagnosis and symptoms, a machine model will recognize these patterns and can make recommendations for providers, rather than requiring them to create orders from scratch,” he added.

Additionally, as clinician retention and satisfaction remain critical focus areas, healthcare provider organizations and the partners who work with them must continue the push to create a more-connected, intuitive experience, Brient insisted.

A better documentation experience

“We can and will use data insights to wick work away from clinical teams, reduce friction in documentation, and minimize the burden of quality program participation,” he said. “While a better documentation experience won’t completely fix the burnout problem, it will contribute to a working environment for clinical teams that is more centered on the patient, which hopefully will move us in a better direction.

“Also, health systems and other healthcare providers will place a premium on finding tools and processes to improve work-life balance for their clinical team members, to protect workforce stability and their capacity to provide quality patient care,” he continued. 

“Alternative documentation solutions, such as virtual scribe and ambient-voice technology, and support for complex quality and risk management workflows, come to mind.”

The vendor also sees telehealth playing an expanding role – in addition to maintaining access for patients, when deployed correctly, telehealth can address key factors contributing to burnout by enabling autonomy and greater schedule flexibility for clinical team members, Brient noted.

“Physicians can choose to see patients where and when they choose,” he observed. “Given the benefits to both clinicians and patients (chronic care management, behavioral health, even follow-up for procedural care), virtual care will find its logical place in the healthcare delivery ecosystem.

“It isn’t going to replace in-person care, but now that almost every patient and provider has experienced a virtual visit, we will see how it can help optimize care delivery and complement more traditional care settings,” he added.

A value-based care future

Furthermore, the transition to value-based care models will continue, he noted.

“Success in a value-based care world is very different from success in a fee-for-service world,” he observed. “Providers will need to deploy the right tools and rethink the way they manage their practices to ensure success in what is likely to be a hybrid FFS/VBC world for some time.

“As the focus shifts from episodic care to population-health management, technology solutions will support care delivery models that expand access to care to wider populations, lowering the overall cost of care and improving outcomes,” he added.

The patient experience

Historically, he said, the healthcare system has not focused on providing consumer-class patient experiences.

“Even today, in 2022, the typical patient encounter in the U.S. involves manual processes based around phone calls, faxes and paper, even though many secure, digital consumer-facing functionalities have been available for years – and widely utilized in other industries such as e-commerce, travel and financial services,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a rapid adoption of health technologies – and our smartphones have already largely trained us on how to use them,” he continued. “Individuals expect to use digital technologies in their lives, and 2022 will see a significant improvement in ease-of-use and convenience for healthcare consumers.”

Feature-rich, patient-facing mobile apps for tasks like checking into an appointment, conducting a telehealth visit, paying a bill or viewing lab results will make it far easier for a patient to know when they’ve received a communication from their physician and for patients to engage with their practice, Brient said.

Facilitating greater care

“This will be an intuitive experience that puts healthcare at the forefront of patients’ daily lives, and it will remove some manual and administrative work so providers can focus on facilitating greater care,” he said.

“Organizations that successfully embrace modern technology and patient-centric approaches to the healthcare experience itself (pre- and post- visit) will benefit the patient-provider connection and empower patients to engage in their wellbeing for better outcomes,” he concluded.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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