Improvements in patient scheduling brings dividends to CoxHealth

Scheduling appointments with a new physician can be challenging for patients, especially when they want easy access and convenience.

That’s why CoxHealth in Springfield, Mo., launched a new program to make scheduling more enjoyable via a streamlined scheduling process.

CoxHealth has redesigned its scheduling templates with help from Cerner, its electronic health records vendor, to enable schedulers to get a more complete view of first available appointments for new patients. The delivery system then added an online scheduling tool enabling patients to schedule their own appointments.

Results were impressive—patients self-scheduled more than 6,000 online appointments within a 13-month period, compared with 330 online appointments during the previous 13-month period.

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Still, there was much work remaining to optimize services to patients. CoxHealth in the spring of 2018 had launched a new initiative to further improve patient access and self-service with a focus on patients covered by two insurance companies who dictated their covered patients had to be treated at Cox.

Over time, those insurance requirements changed, and Cox found itself with patients who now could where they wanted to go, but the provider had not sufficiently improved its services and patients started going to competitors, says Brock Shamel, administrative director of clinics at CoxHealth.

And with 43 locations just in primary and specialty care, it was difficult for the organization to create a standard culture. CoxHealth for some time had not optimized scheduling to better enable end users to more easily get the first available physician or the physician of their choice. So, two changes were made. With tools from Cerner, patients now could text 269 INFO to call and schedule with a doctor. Cox also adopted Cerner’s on-line self-service scheduling application via a portal.

These changes helped to facilitate a new culture but also overwhelmed existing providers and staff, Shamel notes. “Anytime you bring more people through the doors that will task those serving patients with more workloads.”

CoxHealth turned to its electronic health record and embedded documentation templates in the EHR to make it easier to assess data, find patient histories and see a clearer picture of the patient.

Cerner then helped the organization build a provider template so end users did not have to memorize logic rules.

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