MD Anderson increases patient, staff satisfaction and saves staff time with outsourced medical records management pilot study.
Gathering medical records for referred patients prior to their appointment remains a challenging task for most healthcare institutions. Not only does this create inefﬁciencies in the delivery of care, but it can also impact clinical decisions made on behalf of the patient.
A pilot study at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center took a proactive approach to obtaining patient medical records by utilizing eHealth Connect ® Record Retrieval Service from eHealth Technologies™.
The pilot, which ran from October 8 to November 15, 2007 in MD Anderson’s Gastrointestinal and Genitourinary Centers (GI/GU), was to determine if eHealth Connect could:
- Improve the patient’s experience with the referral process and satisfaction with access into MD Anderson, and
- Save Patient Access Centers’ staff time to focus on other parts of the referral and enable a faster path to decision making about patient referrals.
A total of 185 medical records requests were made during the pilot period for 151 unique patients: 143 from GI and eight from GU. All together, eHealth Connect retrieved information from 355 provider locations; the average number of locations contacted per request was 1.9, while the maximum number of locations contacted for one request was ﬁve. Total requests break down as follows:
Metrics used to evaluate the performance of eHealth Connect were medical records and pathology retrieval cycle times, staff time savings and satisfaction surveys by staff and patients.
Cycle times were compared against prior performance (baseline) by MD Anderson staff. For each type of request, eHealth Connect clearly made a significant difference in retrieval times. On average, eHealth Technologies obtained GI medical record requests 61 percent faster than the baseline; for pathology, the data was obtained 32 percent faster, on average. In both cases, the median time for receipt of patient data was even higher: 71 percent faster for medical records and 40 percent faster for pathology requests. GU cycle times were as impressive. The average cycle time with eHealth Technologies was, on average, 50 percent faster than the baseline according to MD Anderson.
“Faster medical records retrieval times translate to better patient care. We can begin their treatment sooner by making important clinical decisions right away if we have all their clinical information available more quickly. Plus, we can avoid unnecessary or duplicate testing,” states Roy Olpin, Project Director, Clinical Operations at MD Anderson.
Qualitative staff feedback further validated ease of use and higher levels of satisfaction. In fact, MD Anderson completely eliminated staff dissatisfaction with the medical records/pathology/imaging record documentation retrieval process and also increased the level of satisfaction. In the staff survey, 20 percent of respondents indicated that the ease of effort in retrieving patient information was “not easy” prior to implementation of the pilot study. After using eHealth Connect, this was reduced to zero. Ninety percent of the respondents rated the pilot study as “very effective” in obtaining patient data. The only caveat was to find a way to send the forms to eHealth Technologies electronically to increase the level of effectiveness.
According to Jim Brook, Clinical Administrative Director, Gastrointestinal Center, “With eHealth Technologies handling the medical record documentation tasks, my team can focus more on the value they can add to patient referrals. Ultimately, that means the patient and clinician have a more satisfying experience.”
“Ultimately, that means the patient and clinician have a more satisfying experience.”
Jim Brook, Clinical Administrative Director, Gastrointestinal Center
Level of customer service also received high marks from the MD Anderson staff, which then translated to higher levels of patient satisfaction. Patients from the pilot sample, who were contacted to complete a phone interview, reported a better overall experience at MD Anderson based on a higher degree of effectiveness and ease of effort of documentation retrieval, when compared with satisfaction of the baseline patient sample.
MD Anderson identified an absolute value of staff time savings for both GI and HIM staff. Above and beyond the apparent cost savings attributed to the value of staff hours, MD Anderson uncovered additional tangible and intangible benefits from eHealth Connect Services. Most notably, the patient referral to disposition date cycle time for the GI Center was reduced by nearly 5 days.
Both patient and staff satisfaction levels increased and staff noted that their time savings could be used for other valuable referral activities.
According to MD Anderson, additional analysis would identify significant staff savings, including the potential paper reduction cost savings.
“Anything that we can do to significantly decrease the time between initial referral and first appointment is good for improving patient access, indicates associated satisfaction, and simply bodes well for our entire healthcare system,” says Gerard Colman, Vice President & Chief of Clinical Operations. “Throughout the eHealth Technologies pilot, the value of easing record retrieval concerns for our patients and enabling staff to focus on those parts of the referral process on which they can add the most value, was and is positively pervasive.“
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