Dr. R. Hal Baker, chief information and digital officer at York, Pennsylvania-base WellSpan Health, asks a simple question: “What if?”
He does so because, he says, old ways of thinking and doing have become obsolete, and the organization’s teams have been driven to reimagine the way they operate to improve processes.
“We pride ourselves on the idea of ‘Working As One’ to provide an integrated approach to our patients across our systems of care,” Baker explained. “Involving a third party to help extend the care we can provide to new locations and platforms such as 24-hour-a-day video visits is a convenience we wanted to be able to offer our patients – but at times such an offering came at the expense of a disconnected approach.
“While we could brand the service as WellSpan, we could not fulfill the promise of ‘knowing you’ and providing exceptional healthcare designed around that person,” he continued. “The issue is that you cannot truly connect with a patient through these third parties because you don’t have access to a full medical record.”
Thus, patients would have to enter their medical history and wonder why the doctor didn’t know it already or enter their medication list and wonder why the organization didn’t have it already. The convenience was great, but the brand promise fell short, he said.
“Within minutes of hearing the plan for an Epic-based virtual care platform, I could see how it would offer a superior experience if executed well,” Baker said. “When we went live on the Epic platform in 2017, as a practicing physician I was startled by how much better the interoperability and data exchange was than anything I had seen on previous electronic health records.
“Because, for example, Johns Hopkins also is on Epic, within a few clicks I could be looking at a 10-year-old pathology result on a patient who had been seen there and was seeing me today,” he explained. “The platform has advanced over the ensuing six years and now notes and problem lists are much more easily reconciled, but the data is there.”
“When using an integrated platform versus a spot solution, you have to recognize the possibilities are numerous and it is not self-evident which path is best to take.”
Dr. R. Hal Baker, WellSpan Health
Through the Epic virtual care platform, the provider who may be seeing the patient for the first time will still have access to all of the information needed to be able to confirm problem lists and to confirm medication lists instead of asking for the patient to provide that.
“It’s the difference between being known and being unknown,” Baker said. “The difference between being part of the system of care and feeling like you’re on a disconnected island.”
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MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Baker was excited to be part of the first wave of clients leveraging the KeyCare Epic-based EHR/telehealth platform.
“It offered us a much more integrated experience,” he said. “The notes of a KeyCare visit show up chronologically in the medical record almost as if they were rendered directly into WellSpan’s version of Epic. There is complete transparency without scanning faxed documents and medications that are prescribed are readily available for review at subsequent care within WellSpan.
“I realized we were on to something when one of my patients had two visits with KeyCare and didn’t perceive that he had been outside of the WellSpan system,” he noted. “This takes a creative mindset and a committed partner and we believe we have both with KeyCare.”
WellSpan sees many other possibilities to leverage the integration the platform provides and expand the number of services it can provide to patients by leveraging the clinicians KeyCare can bring to the shared work.
“Through innovative partnerships like this, we’re bringing big ideas to life,” Baker said. “It allows us to expand our capabilities, creating opportunities to build trust, reimagine healthcare and inspire health.”
Since go-live in February 2023, WellSpan has seen more than 6,000 patients through the new platform. Wait times are averaging 16 minutes with the median wait time of 12 minutes.
“And we recognize that it is working for our patients because more than 20% of the patients we have seen in September and August are repeat users of the platform,” Baker noted. “We don’t think they would be coming back if it hadn’t been a successful experience.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
“When using an integrated platform versus a spot solution, you have to recognize the possibilities are numerous and it is not self-evident which path is best to take,” Baker advised. “The paradox of having so many choices of opportunity is that it sometimes becomes hard to choose one, and we have found ourselves at times wrestling with what to do next.
“It is simpler when someone comes to you with a dedicated technology that solves one problem very well,” he continued. “Of course, it is much harder to figure out where to get started when a single platform can be used to solve dozens of problems.”
If an organization can focus on pursuing something meaningful, even if it is not more meaningful than the alternative pursuit, it can at least get started – and from there develop greater insights and be more prepared to tackle the next problem and the next thereafter, he concluded.
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