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Emory Clinic wins patient access award for excellence

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Janet Christenbury

Emory Clinic has been awarded the 2015 Patient Access Symposium Award of Excellence for demonstrating exceptional results in patient access and scheduling in the ambulatory/outpatient care setting. The award acknowledges Emory Clinic for being the number one Patient Access Department in academic ambulatory care for the year. The Patient Access Symposium is made up of leaders in academic ambulatory care at more than 40 academic medical centers in the U.S.

Ambulatory care refers to medical services performed on an outpatient basis, without admission to a hospital or other facility. It is provided in dialysis clinics, ambulatory surgical centers, hospital outpatient departments and the offices of physicians and other health professionals.

"Out of 42 academic medical centers representing 50 million outpatient visits in the ambulatory care setting, we are excited that Emory Clinic was recognized as the top Patient Access Department for 2015," says Alan Kramer, director of Patient Access at Emory. "Our continued hard work and focus on access improvement is really paying off for our patients and their families."

Winners of the award are chosen on the basis of:

  • Achieving compelling outcomes that create value to the institution through improving patient access;

  • Establishing quantifiable results in exceeding key performance indicators for patient access;

  • Seeking novel, creative solutions for patient access to advance beyond the status quo; and

  • Advancing patient quality and safety by achieving enhanced patient access.

Emory Clinic has sharpened its focus on patient scheduling; a two-fold effort to reduce the appointment time to be seen by providers and to also reduce wait times when the call is being made. In Fiscal Year 2015, more than 2.6 million calls came into Emory Clinic from patients to schedule doctor’s appointments. Schedulers receive about 12,000 calls a day from both new and returning patients.

Through the implementation of online databases and guided scheduling, a technology that facilitates triage and scheduling for patients, the Patient Access team is able to get the right patient with the right physician at the right time.

In May 2015, Emory Clinic launched a new "Work from Home" program, allowing 17 phone schedulers to take scheduling calls from their office at home. With high employee satisfaction scores and increased agent performance scores, Emory Clinic expanded the program to 50 agents in November 2015.

To make scheduling easier for patients, an online scheduling pilot program began in the fall of 2015. Online scheduling involving 30 primary care providers within Emory Specialty Associates is currently being tested. Patients are able to schedule either new or returning appointments with their doctors online. Plans to expand online scheduling throughout all of the ambulatory care setting will be based on the results of the pilot program.

 A new text messaging reminder program has enrolled 50,000 patients thus far, which led to a 7.5 percent "no show" rate for the month of December 2015. The previous "no show" rate was 13.6 percent, leading to a 44 percent decrease in "no shows" over the last year.

"Our patient satisfaction scores for access to health care providers have climbed from the 23rd percentile, as compared to our peers, in 2007 to the 70th percentile in 2015," says Donald Brunn, president and COO of Emory Clinic, and president of Emory Specialty Associates. "While we have opportunities for continued improvement, our team has achieved good success thus far, with much more to come."

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