ARROWHEAD HEALTH CENTERS
Arrowhead Health is a 17 provider multi-specialty practice in Glendale, Arizona. Founded by Dr. David Berg, the clinic offers a patient-centered experience featuring a team of family physicians, physical therapists, pain management physicians, chiropractors and massage therapists. Within five years of its inception, Arrowhead Health dramatically increased its patient base. However, as the practice grew, it became increasingly burdened with the inefficiencies of managing paper charts, and they decided to make the transition to an integrated electronic health record (EHR) and practice management (PM) solution. Dr. Berg recalls, “We knew the EHR was the right thing to do, not only to help us make our practice more efficient, but to provide a better experience for our patients.”
THE SEARCH BEGINS
With Dr. Berg serving as the clinic’s physician champion, Arrowhead had ambitious goals for their PM/EHR project. “This was a very important undertaking for us. We felt that whatever system we selected had to support our growth objectives in terms of revenue and profitability while decreasing our overall costs. At the same time, we saw the software as the foundation for our customer service and quality initiatives.”
Arrowhead completed several months of extensive research using product reviews from the internet and trade publications, as well as outreach to peers regarding their PM/EHR experiences. As part of this research, the search team focused on four main areas—functionality, ease of documentation, company financials and leadership.
eMDs IS THEIR CHOICE
The Arrowhead team narrowed its search to the top five vendors, ultimately selecting eMDs as their practice solution. Dr. Berg summarized the rationale for their choice. “eMDs was able to deliver on all the areas that we considered important.”
“I trusted that they could deliver on what they said and that they weren’t over-promising. We were confident that they had a strong enough foothold in the industry to provide services for as long as we needed.”
A SMOOTH IMPLEMENTATION
Arrowhead began the implementation of the product suite in 2003. The practice was excited to initiate the project but also concerned about meeting the varied needs of their providers in a multispecialty environment. They were also apprehensive about overwhelming their staff with a new software system.
eMDs provided solutions for these challenges. Dr. Janice Johnston, Arrowhead’s Medical Director noted, “The flexibility of Solution Series made it a breeze to customize to the preferences of each specialty. And since the system is an integrated suite of modules, we had the option of gradually introducing each component in an incremental way. We were relieved that we did not have to face an all-or-nothing implementation.”
Another daunting aspect of the implementation was the transition of information in the paper charts into the EHR. Working with eMDs project managers, Arrowhead took a smart approach. Instead of providers. To avoid disrupting their full-time staff, Arrowhead used medical students to do the “heavy lifting” of the paper chart transition.
"Profitability increased by 50% at the end f the first year of use and by 100% by the end of Year 2."
In little more than a year after the initial go-live, Arrowhead made the transition to a “paperless” office. The impact of eMDs has been impressive. Weekly hours devoted to medical records management decreased from 200 hours per week to 20 hours per week and access to charts was now instantaneous at any time, day or night. As a result, Arrowhead was able to reallocate 5 full time record keeping staff members to patient care responsibilities.
As its operational efficiencies improved, Arrowhead was able to increase the number of patient visits per day by 40% (from 250 to 350 visits) with no additional staff. With improved coding and billing efficiency, profitability increased by 50% at the end of the first year of use and 100% by the end of Year 2. As paper charts were retired and charts rooms were emptied Arrowhead was able to reconfigure and use the physical space more efficiently. Dr. Berg says “Before it seemed like people were on top of each other and could never find what they were looking for. Now we are able to dedicate our space to patient care instead of paper storage.”
Arrowhead’s patients were also pleased with the system. Patient wait times have decreased by 50%. Some patients began complaining that they now didn’t have enough time to complete their insurance paperwork before being called back to see the doctor!
Dr. Berg noted that patients regularly comment on the “pleasant experience” they enjoy with the efficient workflow of the clinic.
Dr. Berg also commented that the eMDs solution is also making an impact on the cost and quality of care. “With eMDs, providers always have access to the patient information to make right decision.
No matter where they are, if they have access to a computer they can access the patient’s chart. This has been crucial for us in managing after-hours patient issues, since our providers can securely log in to eMDs from home.”
Having better information and higher quality of care has translated into lower costs. Since deploying eMDs, Arrowhead’s hospital utilization costs for its patients dropped to 35% below the average of their peers.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Arrowhead’s future goals include doubling the size of the practice and adding an Ambulatory Surgery Center to the site.
Using eMDs enterprise features as their IT foundation, they plan to develop online services for patients such as patient scheduling, e-visits, refill requests, and patient-provider messaging. They also plan to add satellite locations in other cities and states, which will be managed by their centralized billing, IT and administrative operations in Scottsdale utilizing eMDs.
Arrowhead’s Medical Director, Dr. Johnston, concludes, “From the implementation to the ongoing support, we have been thrilled with our relationship with eMDs. There’s not another system that offers the functionality, flexibility and ease of use of eMDs. It has been instrumental to our success and will be critical to supporting our future plans.”