Piedmont Healthcare accelerates IT implementation with support

Piedmont Healthcare wanted to accelerate the process of selecting technology that would help patients make better informed healthcare decisions.

Such implementations of healthcare IT are typically glacial. It takes hospitals an average of 23 months from identifying a need to selecting, piloting and implementing new health information technology tools, according to the American Hospital Association.

With more than 2,000 providers across 11 hospitals and 56 urgent care centers, Piedmont Healthcare’s desire to create a consistent patient experience across the enterprise seemed daunting.

Piedmont wanted to make it easier for patients to find the right type of doctor, but search results often were disappointing, with only one or a handful of physicians identified, says Katie Logan, vice president of experience at Piedmont. “Our user interface wasn’t easy and didn’t meet a business requirement for a hospital-free booking process,” she explains.

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What patients really wanted was a solution that presented physician profiles that include gender, hours, pricing and online booking, as well as finding the doctor easily. “We needed a portal to schedule, but new patients could not do online booking.”

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Piedmont turned to AVIA, a network for health systems focused on digital technology that works with providers to access technological needs, find the right software, implement and scale the software on an accelerated timetable.

Requests for proposals were boiled down to three vendors, one of which demonstrated poor usability and no contact center. Another was comparable for some components but not all. And another vendor had the pieces, but not a good reputation.

With a little more looking, the organization selected the provider data management and scheduling products of Kyruus, which offered patient access to a single provider directory with provider search and scheduling functions. Patients do not need to create an account; they simply fill out a short form and get online with the same level of access to book appointments as anyone else.

Still, Piedmont has another hurdle to overcome, Logan recalls. What the organization did not fully understand was the difficulty of integrating Kyruus with the electronic health record. “That took some time and was a difficult road to navigate,” she adds.

Once Piedmont was ready with online scheduling, the next task was changing consumer behavior, as it takes time for consumers to know that scheduling is available.

“We’re still building up awareness and educating the consumer,” Logan acknowledges. “Our next phase is to look beyond ambulatory care to other types of scheduling. If I can book my doctor, I should be able to book my own mammogram.”

Patient ability to handle online scheduling also has reduced physician needs to work on the phone, Logan notes. “It is a change in culture and how we offer services, but once doctors understand, it’s pretty much clear sailing.”

Thus far, benefits resulting from patients making their own appointments include nearly a nearly three-fold increase in appointments booked year over year, an 18 percent increase in web traffic year over year, an 80-fold increase in the number of keyword searches where Piedmont provider profiles appear in the top three search engine results, and booking 77,000 total appointments at Piedmont’s QuickCare clinics in the first year following launch.

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