Hyndman Area Health Center – a holistic Pennsylvania-based health center that offers family medicine, dental health, behavioral health and more – transitioned from client-hosted servers to eClinicalWorks cloud-based servers to expand its network capacity can be done and meet the growing data demand.
Since then, it has experienced more than 150% growth in patients and has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years because it is no longer dependent on physical servers.
Healthcare IT News WebMD sits down with Bill Kurticz, CEO of Hyndman Area Health Center, to discuss cloud technology, cloud EHR and telehealth, and how the technologies benefit the provider organization.
Q. Hyndman Area Health Center provides family medicine, dental health, pediatrics and women’s health, among other things. Please talk about problems you faced before telehealth and how telemedicine helped overcome them.
a. Like many health care practices, we turned to telehealth during the pandemic. Amidst so much uncertainty, one thing remained constant – our patients needed care. But we didn’t know how we were going to test new patients if they were going to come into our facilities, or how we were going to track patients with existing medical conditions.
Many practices in our area closed their doors and stopped providing care to our community. So we felt even more compelled to find a solution and provide care, even if it wasn’t in person at our facilities.
Our electronic health records vendor, eClinicalWorks, introduced us to a telehealth service we didn’t realize we could access. This feature integrates with our existing IT infrastructure – including EHR, scheduling and more – making it an easy addition to our workflow.
We started by offering telehealth for our primary care services. We found that our patients adapted to the new format and appreciated the option of receiving care from the comfort of their own homes. Then we added telehealth for Medicated Assisted Treatment patients and virtual counseling.
Additionally, as a health center, we care for many patients with social determinants of health. Telehealth reduces challenges for our patients, such as transportation, allowing us to provide more equitable care to our community.
We continue to use telehealth in our daily work. Once the pandemic slowed and we opened our physical office, providers still had the freedom to take some appointments from home. For example, if a provider had COVID-19 but had mild symptoms, they could not come into the office but still be healthy enough to work.
With telehealth, this provider can meet with patients through telehealth, reducing the need to reschedule appointments or offload patients to another provider. We’ve seen the benefits of telehealth for both our patients and our providers, so we’re trying to bring more awareness to this option and grow the population of telehealth.
Q. You are using eClinicalWorks Cloud EHR powered by Microsoft Azure – in which eClinicalWorks recently invested $100 million – to help streamline operations and provide quality care to patients. How does your work with the EHR vendor enable this?
a. During COVID, our patient population grew by over 400%. We noticed that our IT capabilities were slowing down because our on-premises servers could not handle the massive amount of data.
We were using three servers at the time, and needed to triple that to handle the current workload. This would have cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars over a few years – which was not sustainable from a business or financial perspective. We needed a solution that would help us scale without adding an expensive server every time there was an influx of patients.
We completed a financial analysis on the estimated five-year cost of continuing with in-house servers compared to moving to the cloud. ROI favors moving to the cloud. Our EHR vendor began this process by running an optimization on our existing infrastructure and determining that their cloud solution would meet our current practice needs and prepare us for future growth.
They did a SWOT analysis to find our pain points and areas of optimization. As a federally qualified health center (FQHC), we have limited funding, and we had little margin for infrastructure upgrades.
Our vendors work with many FQHCs and understand our position. They offered a plan that addressed our main pain points and kept us on track to maximize our ROI while improving provider satisfaction and clinical care.
We could not have made this transition without our trusted EHR vendor. With a dedicated team, they identify problem areas and provide appropriate solutions. In addition, our vendors handle our IT needs and services, another task we can now offload to our internal teams.
By partnering with our EHR vendor to transition to the cloud, our providers and employees can focus on what matters most – taking care of our patients. We can sleep a little better at night, don’t have to worry about disaster management, HVAC or security – issues related to physical servers that disappear once we move to the cloud.
Q. How have you achieved efficiency and better care?
a. What we learned from this process is the importance of working with your vendor to analyze and identify optimizations. If we hadn’t sought help from our EHR vendor, we would have put all our money into servers instead of investing in a long term plan that serves both patients and providers.
By working with Vendor, we now have the tools and resources needed to provide the best care for our community.
Our IT infrastructure is more efficient than ever. With the cloud, we’ve cut our IT bill in half and our organization is experiencing faster, more secure data transfer and storage. The cloud provides real-time zonal and regional redundancy, so our practice and patient data remains accessible and secure, no matter what.
Before going through the transformation process, we were concerned about losing control of patient data in the cloud. But we have learned that this is not the case. The cloud keeps all our data secure, no matter what the circumstances. If one server goes down, another is available to hold our data.
Between faster network speeds, increased security and the increased flexibility of our practice, we now feel more confident in our ability to care for our patients. Our providers also report greater satisfaction, as they now spend less time waiting on data or network connections.
These efficiencies also translate into better care. Patients now experience a more streamlined care experience as we manage their data in the cloud. Their providers can access all their data using search and data-analysis tools from our EHR vendor for more accurate care. We’d recommend it to any practice struggling to keep up with demand or looking to scale up to cloud detection. It is one of the best decisions we have made for our practice.
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Email the author: [email protected]
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