March 7, 2020

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March 3, 2020

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Client Stories

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

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BACK TO COVID-19 RESPONSE HOMEPAGE

The threat of COVID-19 is forcing healthcare organizations to make significant changes to protect their patients, providers and staff. Proactive patient communication efforts are an essential part of these efforts. 

Starling Physicians Group, a Connecticut multi-specialty group, is using Phreesia’s Announcements feature to notify patients of key information, including changes to their processes.  

“We are sending out announcements as we change policies or procedures to ensure our patients are updated on the rapidly changing environment at our locations,” said Sarah Holcomb, the group’s Information Systems Administrator. “It’s helping them understand what and how we are moving in response to the CDC’s recommendations.” 

Here are Starling’s latest changes, which have been communicated to patients at all 36 of its locations:


  • Required Pre-Visit Check-In – Patients must check in for appointments before coming to the office, using via text, email or phone call 

  • One guest per visit – Patients are encouraged to come alone or bring only one guest to limit the number of people in the office 

  • No unscheduled walk-ins – Patients without scheduled appointments must call before coming to the office. 

Using Announcements to make patients aware of those new policies has worked well so far, said Holcomb. “Patients have been checking themselves in ahead of time and adhering to the changes we’ve implemented,” she said. “We’re also seeing a good response from patients to the COVID-19 Screening Module.”

In addition to email Announcements, Starling created a 
COVID-19 page on its website to communicate further changes, as well as frequently asked questions and COVID-19 prevention tips.

On Friday, March 20, Phreesia hosted a webinar featuring leaders from medical groups located in COVID-19 hotspots across the country, who shared their best practices in battling the virus and keeping their practices and communities safe. Our VP of Clinical Engagement, Dr. Hilary Hatch, and our Director of Clinical Content, Dr. Alicia Cowley, led a discussion with Dr. Laura Arline, Director of Quality and Process Improvement at Baycare Medical Group in Tampa Bay, Fla.; Barbara Porter, Senior Director for Marketing Communications and the Patient Experience at GW Medical Faculty Associates in Washington, D.C.; and Brett Vandenberg, CEO of Allegro Pediatrics in Bellevue, Wash.

Here are some of the key takeaways from their informative roundtable discussion:

  1. Develop contingency plans now so you can execute quickly when the time comes. Brett Vanderberg explained that his team has planned for a scenario in which 20% of their workforce is unable to come to work due to illness/exposure and quarantine or family support. All of our panelists said they’ve had to move or reschedule a large number of appointments, and they said planning in advance for this type of operational challenge would have been very helpful. 

  2. Minimize unnecessary exposure at your office. Dr. Arline shared how Baycare is using Phreesia to pre-screen patients for risk factors indicating potential COVID-19 infection. If a patient has risk factors, a provider will review their case and send them to one of their seven designated COVID-19 screening drive-through centers. Meanwhile, Allegro Pediatrics and GW Medical Faculty Associates have chosen to cordon off specific locations or segments of their building for at-risk patients. Barbara Porter described how she and her team have begun limiting the number of people entering their facility and have been performing temperature checks for employees and visitors, further limiting the spread of the disease. All three panelists cited the ramp-up of telehealth as another important way to limit exposure.  

  3. Share practice updates and new protocols with staff and providers daily. Dr. Arline explained how her team uses a morning huddle to communicate to their staff each day. This ensures consistent communication and simultaneously allows staff to voice concerns to leadership. Similarly, at Allegro Pediatrics, Brett Vandenberg and his team have been sending out daily emails to staff with updates and new protocols.  

  4. Demonstrate and reinforce the need for staff self-care. When asked what worries her most, Dr. Arline said sustaining her staff and providers. These next few weeks are going to be a “marathon, not a sprint,” she said. Dr. Arline pointed out that everyone’s personal lives have been disrupted with longer and more intense workdays, and many staff members have additional challenges, including childcare. Similarly, Barbara Porter explained everyone is working furiously and to preserve the energy needed in this time of crisis and it’s important to ensure staff are taking necessary time off.   

  5. Keep patients apprised of changes at your practice and how they can reach you if they need care. All three organizations we spoke with have launched a nurse triage line to help handle the increased call volume and to free up primary-care providers’ time. Some have developed scripts or talking points for staff to address specific patient groups—for example for patients being told to stay home, for worried well and for those who want a test. Barbara Porter shared how helpful it’s been to use Phreesia Mobile to share messages with patients about changing schedules.

Today we want to share a new check-in process that several of our clients across different specialties have implemented to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which involves asking patients to wait in their cars upon arriving for their appointment. Although there’s some variation, the basic workflow looks like this: 

  1. Practices send an email announcement to all patients notifying them of the new check-in process, which requires patients to check in and wait in their car, instead of in the office 

  2. If practices use Phreesia Mobile for pre-visit check-in, they can also use that opportunity to remind patients to stay in their car once they arrive for their visit 

  3. When patients arrive, they notify practice staff via phone or text message 

  4. If patients have not already checked in before their visit, practice staff can send a Mobile registration link to complete in the car (ideally including the COVID-19 Screening Module questions)

  5. Once registration is complete and the practice is ready for the patient, a member of the staff comes out to the patient’s car and walks them into the practice, if appropriate

At one practice that has instituted this no-waiting-room model, staff send a text message to patients 30 minutes before their scheduled appointment and then patients text back to that phone number when they arrive at the clinic. If they have not already checked in prior to their visit, staff send them a Mobile check-in link. Once there is a room available—provided the patient has not been flagged as at-risk for COVID-19—a nurse walks the patient into the practice and straight into the exam room. 

Phreesia is committed to supporting provider organizations in their response to COVID-19, and we’ll continue bringing you these examples, stories and best practices from the field.

In this very challenging time, real-time lessons and best practices from the field are more important than ever. During this pandemic, we at Phreesia will be sharing several stories each week from our clients as they respond to COVID-19 and work to protect the health of their communities. We hope these stories will provide helpful tips and inspiration to those of you who are on the front lines.

Using Announcements to Communicate with Patients

March 24, 2020 at 6:00 PM ET

Key Client Takeaways from Phreesia’s Peer-to-Peer Webinar

March 23, 2020 at 6:15 PM ET

Directing Patients to Wait in Their Cars to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

March 19, 2020 at 7:45 PM ET

If you're interested in using our COVID-19 Screening Module, please click here.

If you're interested in using our COVID-19 Screening Module, please click here.

© 2020 PhreesiaTM All rights reserved.

Lessons Learned: Key Takeaways from “Managing Patient Intake for Telehealth” Client Salon

March 27, 2020 at 5:30 PM ET 

On Monday, March 23, Phreesia hosted a client salon, “Managing Patient Intake for Telehealth,” about our new Intake for Telehealth offering that allows our clients to leverage our intake platform to collect important patient information for telehealth visits. This is particularly relevant now, as many healthcare organizations shift a large volume of their visits to telehealth to combat the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.

Dan Nelson, Chief Information Officer at Desert Ridge Family Physicians in Phoenix, Ariz., shared his organization’s experiences with its telehealth solution and Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth. Although the 11-provider primary care practice previously spent two years planning for telehealth implementation, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the timeline and forced immediate action.

“The COVID-19 crisis obviously sped up our timeframe, and considering the circumstances, our experience has been very positive thus far,” Nelson said.

Nelson provided an overview of the new patient intake process at Desert Ridge, and how Phreesia works alongside the practice’s telehealth solution.  

“Our visits begin with a Mobile check-in invitation coming from Phreesia,” Nelson said. “On their phones, patients verify their demographics, pay their copay or balance as needed and review any confidential information – all components of our typical check-in process.”

Once patients have completed the check-in process from their mobile device, according to Nelson, they are provided a link to the practice’s virtual waiting room. From there, a medical assistant connects with the patient and walks through the care guidelines until the physician joins and performs the virtual exam.

Providers and patients have been satisfied with the telehealth experience at Desert Ridge so far, said Nelson. “We’ve had virtually no pushback from patients, given the concerns. They’ve overwhelmingly appreciated the opportunity to do a telehealth visit. It’s allowing us to limit our staff’s exposure, and our providers are proud about the quality of care we’ve delivered during this crisis.”

Nelson also shared lessons learned and tips for other healthcare organizations who are considering moving visits to telehealth to help navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Ask yourself – What’s your ideal implementation? – Prior to implementing any telehealth solution, Nelson suggested that other practices should think about their specific needs and how telehealth would look in their respective workflows. “The first step for any practice is to decide what they want in their ideal implementation. All the future decisions would depend on their needs. Once you have the vision, start putting the pieces in place. There are lots of vendors out there, so do your research. It’s important to strike the right balance between moving quickly and doing your due diligence.” 

  2. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers for help – Nelson encouraged his peers to simply reach out to other practices if they needed help or guidance. “A lot of us have figured out workable solutions and we’re happy to share information and be friendly with any other practice. We are trying to really help each other. It’s a time for us to pull together.” 

  3. Don’t be afraid to spend some money – Be prepared to pay the financial cost of quickly getting telehealth up and running in your practice, Nelson said. “I wasn’t able to do the typical evaluation that I would have done under the normal circumstances. We went ahead and paid the $300 start-up fee [for our telehealth solution] and got started right away.” Nelson also mentioned the potential for spending money on iPads, licenses within the telehealth solution and more, in order to fully ramp up telehealth capabilities. 

  4. If using FaceTime, be aware of giving out your direct contact information – Nelson shared a specific telehealth lesson learned from Desert Ridge’s use of FaceTime to conduct telehealth appointments. “If you’re using FaceTime to connect with patients, you are giving them either your phone number or email address. We had a situation where we had a patient call us back, and it rang all 12 of our iPads simultaneously.” It’s a small, but specific detail that can cause potential headaches for your staff if overlooked.

In this uncertain and challenging time for everyone, especially healthcare providers, Nelson urged his peers to follow one simple sentiment, “It’s rough out there, so let’s just all be kind to one another.”

Practices Designate Sick and Well LocationsShift Appointment Scheduling to Minimize Risk 

March 31, 2020 at 6:45 PM ET 

Medical practices across the country are rapidly making changes to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Needs vary according to each organization and patient population, but many healthcare organizations are temporarily overhauling entire operational workflows in response to this pandemic to keep patients, providers and staff safe.

For a two-location pediatric practice in northeast Florida, that meant designating one location as a “well office” and the other location as a “sick office.”

Both locations request that patients to check in for their appointment through Phreesia prior to arriving at the office. Patients who don’t check in prior to their appointment are directed to complete their check-in curbside, from their mobile device, while remaining in their vehicles.

Patients at the “well office” are taken to an exam room following curbside check-in. No one can wait in the waiting room and there are no lines at the front desk in order to minimize the risk of transmission.

That location conducts all well check-ups, medication checks and all other non-contagious appointments, including chronic headaches, allergy and asthma rechecks, weight checks and newborn appointments. Walk-in appointments are no longer allowed at the well office.

At the “sick office,” patients sometimes remain in their car for their entire appointment. Following check-in, a provider will go over the patient’s history through the car window. Afterward, the provider will examine the patient either in their car or at one of the practice’s exam tables located outside of the office.

Another two-location pediatric practice in Florida is seeing both sick and well patients at both locations but has limited scheduling to maximize patient and staff safety.

  • Well visits are allowed for patients up to 5 years old. However, appointments are only scheduled on weekday mornings from 8am-11:30am, and from 8am-9am on weekends. 

  • Sick visits are scheduled only in the afternoon. If a walk-in sick appointment in the morning is necessary, the practice has a separate entrance and specific exam rooms designated for those patients. 

  • Weekend business hours, with exception of the first hour of the day, are devoted to sick patients.

In the Northeast, a large multi-specialty group is executing a similar split appointment schedule for sick and well patients. Patients without COVID-19 symptoms and scheduled physicals, annual wellness visits, consultations and routine follow-up visits are seen prior to 1pm. The group also sees patients age 65 and older or those with comorbid conditions in the mornings.

Sick patients are seen in the second half of the day. When possible, patients with COVID-19 symptoms are evaluated outside the practice. Both sick and well patients are asked to come alone.

Additionally, the organization has suspended non-urgent tests and procedures, as well as closed several urgent care locations to better allocate resources and meet patients’ needs. Pediatric walk-in hours have also been cancelled.

Health System Shares Efforts to Reduce Risk During In-Person Visits 

April 2, 2020 at 5:35 PM ET 

On Friday, March 27, Phreesia hosted a webinar, “Zero-Contact Intake: Keeping Your Patients and Staff Safe During COVID-19,” about our new Zero-Contact Intake offering that allows our clients to complete the necessary intake tasks for in-person visits while reducing face-to-face interactions between patients and staff.  

During the webinar, Memorial Health System’s Missy Fleeman, Director of Patient Access, and Kimberly Baumguard, Revenue Cycle Supervisor, shared their organization’s experience with Phreesia’s Zero-Contact Intake and how they’ve implemented the workflow across a variety of care settings.

Like other healthcare organizations, Memorial Health System, which includes 64 clinics and two hospitals, pivoted quickly during the COVID-19 crisis, but the organization’s greatest focus has been maintaining patient and staff safety.

With the help of Zero-Contact Intake, the Marietta, Ohio-based health system is capturing important intake information for in-person visits while minimizing risk across their care settings, including the organization’s Assessment Clinic, Express Care location and Obstetrics department.

Assessment Clinic

To meet patient needs, Memorial Health System temporarily shifted locations and set up an Assessment Clinic designed specifically for all patients who have flu or COVID-19 symptoms. Patients experiencing symptoms are highly encouraged to contact their primary care provider, the nurse line or a provider through the organization’s mobile app. Based on the provider’s decision, patients may be sent to the Assessment Clinic.

“Dedicating one building for the Assessment Clinic allowed us to isolate these patients with COVID-19 or flu symptoms and keep them safe in their vehicle,” Fleeman said. “When the patients arrive, we have signs around that inform them to stay in their car and call the clinic.”

After patients call the clinic to let staff know of their arrival, the Phreesia interview is pushed to the patient to complete in their own car. If the patient doesn’t have a mobile device, a PhreesiaPad is handed to the patient to complete the interview.

“Once the patient interview is completed and we are ready to see the patient, a text message is sent asking the patient to drive up to the designated spot,” Fleeman said. “They can either be tested in their car or asked to go inside the clinic if further examination is necessary.”

According to Fleeman, patients are very appreciative of how the new process is reducing exposure and keeping them safer.  

Express Care  

To minimize exposure at its Express Care setting, which treats walk-in patients, Memorial Health System leveraged Zero-Contact Intake and a similar car workflow to the Assessment Clinic. “We wanted to create a no-touch registration process in the Express Care area,” Baumguard said.  

At the Express Care location, patients arrive and call the registration staff from their vehicles, and staff send  a check-in link for the patient to complete in their car.  

Baumguard added, “Once the patient has finished the interview and is ready to be taken back to an exam room, a staff member calls and tells the patient to come inside. We completely eliminated the need for patients to wait in the waiting room.”

Obstetrics

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, OB patients would register at Memorial Health System’s Emergency Department before going to the OB floor. To keep those patients safer, the health system implemented a new intake process that keeps them out of the ED.  

“Currently, our OB patients are being asked to go to the parking garage [near the ED],” Baumguard said. “They’ll call the OB floor and then a nurse will go down to the patients in parking garage to take their temperature and other vitals before they’re allowed to go to the OB floor.”

If patients have an OB appointment scheduled, such as a scheduled C-section, patients can pre-register with Phreesia before arriving at the hospital. For any walk-ins, the staff can send patients a check-in iink once they arrive.

In general, Fleeman stressed to her peers during the webinar the importance of being creative and vocal about any ideas on how to improve the safety of patients and staff.

“Our main priority with this pandemic is to keep patients and staff healthy, whether that’s by keeping registration staff out of patients’ rooms or by keeping patients in their cars if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” she said.

Fleeman added, “Everything can change so quickly in a matter of days. For us, we’ve changed how we communicate and interact with patients, as well as how we deliver care.”

Addressing Social Determinants of Health as Part of COVID-19 Response Efforts 

April 3, 2020 at 5:15 PM ET 

As more states implement mandatory stay-at-home policies and nonessential businesses are required to close, social and economic challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are setting in for many. As a result, some healthcare organizations are now including addressing social determinants of health as a key component of their COVID-19 response efforts, particularly to support their vulnerable and underserved patients.  

Using Social Media to Inform Your Patients about Community Resources

For the last several weeks, a 20-provider federally qualified health center in Arizona has been sharing public health guidance on their social media accounts about how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they recently also began sharing contact information for a domestic and sexual violence hotline, a local emergency child-care service for essential workers, and a new drive-through food market where people can purchase food boxes or receive their SNAP benefits.  

In some communities, certain resources simply are not available. For instance, an eight-location pediatrics practice in Utah posted information on their social media page about what parents can use as substitutes if they can’t find any more formula in the stores.  

Screening for Social Determinants of Health to Personalize Care Delivery

While social media is a great way to share broad information about available social services for your community, screening patients for unmet social needs during intake can help you provide targeted support at the point of care. The growing economic instability during the COVID-19 pandemic makes it especially important to add questions about employment status, financial needs, and food and housing insecurity, which play a major role in patients’ ability to care for themselves and their families.  
 
A practice in Western Colorado that currently uses Phreesia’s Social Determinants of Health application recently reported, “We have zero COVID-19 cases in our county so far, but we are still seeing the worldwide pandemic impact social determinants of health in our community. Having the SDOH alert pop up on Phreesia when patients have unmet needs has been super helpful, and we’ve already been able to get resources to families that are really struggling during this time.”

United Urology Uses Self-Scheduling and Intake for Telehealth to Ramp Up Telehealth Visits  

April 6, 2020 at 6:30 PM ET 

On Friday, April 3, Phreesia hosted a webinar, “Zero-Contact Intake: Keeping Your Patients and Staff Safe During COVID-19,” about our new Zero-Contact Intake offering that allows our clients to complete the necessary intake tasks for in-person visits while reducing face-to-face interactions between patients and staff.  

Barry Oursler, Director of Clinical and Business Systems at United Urology group, a national network of urology groups, shared how the group is using Zero-Contact Intake, as well as relying on self-scheduling and Intake for Telehealth during the COVID-19 crisis.

“From early on in the pandemic, limiting staff-patient contact has helped us maintain the health and safety of our staff while also reducing transmission between patients,” Oursler said. “Phreesia’s Zero-Contact Intake is really the difference. Our ability to push check-in links to patients’ smartphones prior to their appointments was critical to ensure that zero-contact safety in our environments.”

The group has also ramped up its use of telehealth. Prior to the outbreak, United Urology offered telehealth visits to their patients, but the technology was only utilized on a limited basis. Now, the organization is seeing large volumes of telehealth visits and expects those visits to continue to grow.  

“It took a platform like Phreesia to enable that scalability and flexibility,” Oursler said.

To support its shift to telehealth visits, United Urology accelerated its adoption of self-scheduling. Previously, the organization had a designated project team working on introducing that feature to patients, but it had not launched it yet. According to Oursler, COVID-19 forced his staff to launch self-scheduling seemingly overnight. So far, it’s been a valuable resource as the group looks to quickly meet emerging patient needs.

“Self-scheduling has been a life-saver for our staff,” Oursler said. “Our inbound phone volume has been very taxing through this crisis, so to give patients the alternative of self-scheduling has been critical for our growth during this period.”

Fifty percent of the group's telehealth appointments are currently being booked through self-scheduling, he said.


Although the group has only been using these functionalities for a few weeks, Oursler fully expects that both Intake for Telehealth and self-scheduling will continue to be instrumental parts of their workflows after the COVID-19 outbreak is over.

“The operating world that we’ll be in within healthcare will be radically different post-pandemic,” Oursler said. “There were patients expecting self-service tools prior to COVID-19, and many more will expect it going forward. This crisis has accelerated those patient expectations of self-service, and as a result, we’ll need to support leaner operational models.”  

Oursler sees this as a challenging time for his industry peers, but he also believes it’s an opportunity to embrace self-service tools for the betterment of their practices and patients.

“The typical concerns and worries we have about how you weave self-service tools into your prior operating model don’t really matter as much right now,” he said. “Patients understand we need to be operating efficiently and they respect our goal of keeping patients and staff safe. I think we’ll come out of this as better organizations in the long run.”

Client Panel Shares Experiences, Tips for Others Looking to Implement Virtual Visits

April 14, 2020 at 5:15 PM ET 

On Tuesday, April 7, Phreesia hosted a client salon, “Managing Patient Intake for Telehealth, Part 2,” about our new Intake for Telehealth offering that allows our clients to leverage our intake platform to collect important patient information for telehealth visits.  

The salon’s client panel featured Susan Cheng, Practice Analyst at Children’s National Pediatricians and Associates, in Washington, D.C.; and Becki Kelley, Clinical Applications Manager at Millennium Physicians Group, in Florida. Cheng and Kelley spoke about their experiences shifting visits to telehealth at their respective organizations and they also shared valuable insights and tips for other groups looking to leverage telehealth as a part of their COVID-19 response.

According to Cheng, Children’s National Pediatricians and Associates, a 12-location, 60-provider organization, did use telehealth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but only sparingly.

“We developed a workflow months ago with our providers and staff utilizing Zoom,” Cheng said. “There was not much of an uptake in telehealth visits as they were few and far between.”

Kelley’s organization, Millennium Physicians Group, on the other hand, was in the middle of creating its telehealth workflow for the 130-location multi-specialty group when the COVID-19 crisis began.

“Our organization was in the midst of developing our telehealth platform, but the onset of COVID-19 expedited our rollout,” Kelley said. “We quickly noticed that we would need to come up with solutions like telehealth to still see and care for our patients.”

Make sure it’s user-friendly 

“When looking for a telehealth solution, make sure to find one that is both visually clean and easy to use,” Cheng said. “Implement a product that both providers and patients can navigate easily to help ensure a positive user experience.”

Kelley emphasized the importance of a positive vendor relationship as well as the platform’s ability to scale quickly, especially for large organizations like Millennium Physicians Group.

“While it’s important to ensure the platform enables easy development and deployment, for us we had to make sure the vendor could handle the large volume of providers and patients we needed to support,” Kelley said. “If you’re looking to potentially use telehealth as a long-term solution, also make sure that the relationship with the vendor is good, especially if changes to the solution have to be made.”  

Getting the word out to patients  

With the infrastructure and workflows in place, both organizations took slightly different approaches to making sure their patients were aware of their new telehealth capabilities.

“We’re keeping some appointments in-person, specifically those visits for younger babies who need their immunizations,” Cheng said. “But we’re rescheduling other existing appointments and trying to switch them to telehealth visits. We’re also running reports to specifically reach out to patients that may have a specific type of condition, such as asthma, ADHD and others, and giving our staff a script to try and switch those patients to telehealth appointments.”

“For patients with COVID-19 symptoms or anyone who doesn’t want to come in, we are changing their visit to telehealth,” Kelley said. “We’re getting the word out through external marketing along with internal training and education. The great thing with Phreesia is that we are keeping all of the patient’s registration information, no matter the appointment type.”
 
Advice on scaling telehealth

According to Cheng and Kelley, a well-formed plan and thorough testing were crucial to scaling telehealth visits in their organizations, and they recommend other organizations do the same.

“I’d say test it out with everyone – providers, test patients, staff – and on all different types of platforms,” Cheng said. “Try it out on mobile devices, laptops and more so you can create variation to understand what type of technical difficulties may arise. You want to make sure that the in-office workflows will also work for a telehealth visit. How would you get a screener to a patient? How would you get the results back into your EMR?

“Have a thought-out plan,” Kelley said. “Going into a telehealth implementation, it’s important to know if you’re going to open all appointments up to telehealth or just a select number of them. For example, we started with existing patients and offered to switch them to telehealth when they cancelled in-person appointments. And then we started opening it up to wellness visits and other appointments. So, we did a rolling launch instead of launching all at once.”

Anderson Hills Pediatrics Embraces Virtual Visits, Intake for Telehealth in Response to COVID-19

April 16, 2020 at 5:30 PM ET 

Visitors to Anderson Hills Pediatrics’ website will immediately see details about the availability of the practice’s newest initiative in response to COVID-19: telehealth visits.  

Up until last month, Anderson Hills leadership was planning telehealth as a potential addition to the practice later in the year. During our recent webinar, “Managing Patient Intake for Telehealth,” Kaley Meadows, the practice’s Administrator, shared how the COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed those plans.

“We had been discussing telehealth as a part of our strategic plan for 2020, looking into various platforms, discussing financials and even trying to decide what conditions or patients should be treated,” Meadows said. “We moved quickly to expedite our plan for COVID-19 and launch our telehealth platform.”

In just three days, Meadows and the rest of her team outlined workflows, led initial internal trainings and conducted a soft launch for select ill appointments and nutrition consultations.

“We felt having telehealth was a crucial part of providing care to our patients during this time,” Meadows said. “Previously, there had been some resistance to telehealth, but it was set aside due to what’s needed to treat this pandemic.”

The Cincinnati, Ohio-based practice set up each physician with their own virtual waiting room for telehealth visits, and purchased additional devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc.) when necessary.  

By working with Phreesia, Anderson Hills also ensured its check-in process prior to a telehealth visit mirrored its in-office check-in process. Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth has helped the pediatric practice capture consents and other important intake information as well as facilitate the start of virtual sessions by including a link to the physician’s virtual waiting room.

Meadows stressed the importance of a seamless intake process for telehealth in order to properly manage virtual visits.

“We’re still making sure we verify their billing or demographic information, collect their past-due balances and that consents are being completed in a timely fashion,” Meadows said. “Without Phreesia, our team would have to try to get that information on the back end which can be very challenging, especially without face-to-face patient interaction.”

Although Anderson Hills conducted an initial soft launch for its telehealth platform, it has now expanded virtual visits to include much of its patient base. Patients may also schedule telehealth visits online.

“Not all visits can be done virtually,” Meadows said. “For example, providing injections or specific types of testing may need to still be done curbside or in the office. However, any patients or guardians that are hesitant about coming into the office or if they have a child that’s immunocompromised, we direct them to a telehealth visit as an alternative option.”

By necessity, it was a rushed effort to ramp up telehealth visits at Anderson Hills. But telehealth’s availability is enabling providers to treat patients they otherwise couldn’t see during this crisis, which has elicited gratitude from patients and their guardians.  

Meadows advised other practices to consider offering telehealth visits if they have not already.  

“If you have any barriers currently, or maybe you think it doesn’t make sense, I would encourage you to set those aside,” she said. “If you haven’t launched telehealth yet as a response to COVID-19, based on the positive feedback we’ve received as a practice, I would highly encourage you to do so. We feel telehealth will be much more present after this pandemic.”

Medical Groups Work to Boost Staff Morale During COVID-19

April 17, 2020 at 5:10 PM ET 

Providers and staff on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated resilience amid the fear and anxiety permeating their work and home lives. Nonetheless, the extreme circumstances and changes to everyday life have had a profound impact on medical staff morale.  

We spoke with Phreesia clients about what strategies they are using to support staff during these trying times. Here are our five key takeaways:

  1. Send daily updates to staff about the current situation, policy changes and recommendations for staying safe. This type of consistent and transparent communication helps build trust in leadership.  
  2. Establish mandatory PTO days to demonstrate support for staff members’ mental health and family obligations. An 80-provider cardiology group in Alabama instituted this policy for all employees. Their administrators recognized that their team will be in it for the long haul and that they needed to take steps to preserve everyone’s energy and stamina.
  3. Establish peer-to-peer communication channels to create a sense of community and comraderie. Some practices have developed text groups or email chains for staff to stay connected. At a large women’s practice in Atlanta, each day a staff member initiates a lighthearted conversation with the group by sharing pictures of their family, pets and home activities with their kids. Continuing the normal conversation that typically takes place in the office but in a virtual setting helps to create a sense of normalcy. Similarly, an arthritis and rheumatology practice in the mid-Atlantic has purchased licenses for Microsoft Teams, an instant message and audio/video communication tool. This enables employees working from home as well as furloughed employees to continue to communicate and maintain a sense of community.  
  4. Reward staff for going the extra mile to show your appreciation. A 30-provider primary care practice in Texas described how they have set up a monthly $200 lottery. Staff can submit their colleagues’ names to the lottery when they recognize someone has been particularly positive and supportive. At the end of the month, one winner is selected from the lottery. Another group, a five-provider family practice in Arizona, has brought in pizza for their front desk staff, who have been working tirelessly to triage incoming patient calls and rescheduling upcoming appointments to telehealth.  
  5. Rotate staff to avoid layoffs and furloughs. A five-provider OB/GYN practice in central Florida developed a schedule to rotate staff into work so that they haven’t had to lay off or furlough any employees. Everyone continues to be able to work despite the reduced patient volume and social distancing measures in the office.

Mid-Atlantic Orthopedic Clinic Shifts to Virtual Visits Using Phreesia Intake for Telehealth

April 21, 2020 at 5:45 PM ET 

Like many healthcare organizations working to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mid-Maryland Musculoskeletal Institute (MMI), a multi-location orthopedics group, has had to quickly implement and ramp up their use of virtual visits. 

“We decided to get telehealth up and running fast,” said Jennifer Thomason, the practice’s Office Manager. “We knew we were going to be cutting providers back from in-person care and going full-speed in doing our part to keep our community safe and have less people in the office.” 

To make the shift, MMI temporarily closed down all but one of its offices for in-person appointments and cut down to two locations for physical therapy services. The group is still treating emergency orthopedic cases, such as broken bones, but the practice is able to provide 90% of physical therapy services and 80% of its typical appointments virtually, including pain management and MRI reviews. 

“We were still performing outpatient surgeries after March 13, so those patients still need follow-up care and physical therapy,” Thomason said. “The providers indicated who needed to be seen in the office based on age and appointment, and everyone else we moved to telehealth.” 

Thomason added the she and her staff called each patient to educate them about what to expect during their telehealth visit.

MMI used Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth offering to maintain their usual intake process for telehealth visits and gather important intake information, including consents. Intake for Telehealth also helps set patients’ expectations for the telehealth visits and includes a link for patients to enter the virtual waiting room following the completion of the intake interview. 

“I think Phreesia has truly exceeded every expectation that I was looking for in a solution,” Thomason said.  

To help divert current and new patients to telehealth, MMI is communicating with patients through email blasts, social media posts and COVID-19-specific web pages with the latest information on telehealth and practice operations.  

Although the transition was fast, Thomason praised Phreesia’s responsiveness.  

 “With telehealth, we were essentially opening an office overnight and you have to figure everything out,” she said. “It’s been great knowing that Phreesia is already developing things on the back end before our practice even knew we needed them.”

Increasing Patient Visit Volume During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 23, 2020 at 5:07 PM ET 

According to a recent report by researchers from the Commonwealth Fund, Harvard University and Phreesia, medical practices in the US have experienced a nearly 60% decrease in ambulatory visit volume since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As this period of social distancing continues, more patients whose care is deemed “non-essential” are falling through the cracks. Some Phreesia clients that have had time to adapt to the new market conditions are leveraging our Health Campaigns application to message to these specific groups of patients and prompt them to schedule in-person or virtual appointments, simultaneously helping patients get the care they need and helping the practices fill their schedules back up.  

To use Health Campaigns, they simply select a message from Phreesia’s template library or craft their own, upload a list of patients to Phreesia, and message all of the patients from the list at once. Here are some of the most common groups of patients your peers are targeting to schedule appointments right now.

All Specialties 

Across specialties, practices want their patients to know that they are available in the office for urgent needs and that other visits can be scheduled via telehealth. For example, a three-location urology practice in North Carolina uses Health Campaigns to message three different groups of patients about the following topics: 

  • Appointment availability in the office for patients with urgent needs and an introduction to telehealth  

  • Request for patients who have upcoming appointments to reschedule their visit to telehealth 

  • Request for patients who canceled an appointment or no-showed to reschedule their appointment to telehealth

Primary Care 

In addition to announcing telehealth availability and rescheduling patients to telehealth, primary care practices are proactively reaching out to patients with common chronic conditions. For example, a six-location FQHC in Indiana is using Health Campaigns to urge patients to schedule routine telehealth appointments now for diabetes, hypertension and depression.

Meanwhile, a three-location FQHC located in Arizona has begun scheduling Medicare Annual Wellness Visits via telehealth. Generating Medicare Annual Wellness visits helps the practice meet quality measures while simultaneously filling their schedule back up and driving revenue.  

Pediatrics  

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages all practices to continue conducting well-child visits to ensure patients receive their vaccines and continue to be monitored for developmental milestones. A two-location pediatric practice in Cincinnati, Ohio is using Health Campaigns to relay unique messages to its patients who are due for well-child visits, including a more urgent message for parents with children under two years old.

Gastroenterology Practice Leverages Zoom, Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth to Shift to Virtual Visits 

April 27, 2020 at 5:25 PM ET 

Many medical practices are turning to telehealth to increase visit volumes and enhance safety for patients and staff during the COVID-19 crisis.

For example, a 17-provider gastroenterology practice has worked to shift the majority of its appointments to virtual ones, despite not having had any telehealth capabilities prior to the pandemic. 

To support this shift, the three-location organization leveraged Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth offering, which captures important intake information, including consents, ahead of each telehealth visit and facilitates the start of virtual sessions. The practice was already a Phreesia client and was able to implement Intake for Telehealth quickly. 

On March 23, the practice launched telehealth with Zoom, along with Phreesia’s virtual intake workflows. Their leadership credited Phreesia’s streamlined intake process with helping to ease the transition and scaling of telehealth.  

The organization’s workflows are designed so that the providers’ workflows are the same as their traditional workflows for in-office visits. MAs are responsible for any coordination with patients. 

Although it only recently implemented telehealth, the practice is relying heavily on the technology to deliver care to its patients throughout the pandemic. In April alone, it has completed more than 1,000 virtual visits and migrated nearly all its in-office visits to telehealth, essentially eliminating in-office visits almost entirely during the COVID-19 crisis.  

Additionally, the practice’s no-show rate for telehealth visits is the same as the rate for in-person visits prior to the pandemic, which is especially noteworthy given the practice’s older patient population.

Zero-Contact Intake Supports Drive-Through COVID-19 Testing Workflow

April 28, 2020 at 5:03 PM ET 

In just a matter of weeks, drive-through COVID-19 testing sites have sprung up across the country. This approach minimizes exposure to healthcare professionals and simultaneously prevents contact with other patients, thereby reducing the spread of disease. In order to meet the general expectations for a drive-through experience, practices and health systems have had to quickly address several operational challenges, including how to collect patients’ demographics, insurance, consents and other information. 

One hospital in Georgia has leveraged Phreesia’s Zero-Contact Intake offering to manage those challenges. Given their shortage of testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE), they developed a COVID-19 hotline, which patients call if they are experiencing symptoms. Nurses managing the hotline verbally screen patients and determine who should be given an appointment. Patients who qualify receive instructions on where to go for drive-through testing and how to check in virtually for their appointment. 

Rather than checking in at the front desk, patients are asked to check in on their phone using Phreesia Mobile. They can complete their registration either at home prior to their appointment or from their cars when they arrive for testing. This process prevents symptomatic patients from potentially exposing front desk staff to the virus. In addition, it enables the hospital to keep track of their schedule and continue to bill for their visits. One of the hospital’s directors remarked, “We are using mobile intake almost exclusively for COVID19 drive-through test sites. It has been a Godsend in the workflow.  I am not sure we would have made [drive-through testing] work without Phreesia."

Medical practices use Patient Chat to text information to patients during COVID-19

May 1, 2020 at 6:16 PM ET 

During COVID-19, maintaining distance between staff and patients is paramount to ensuring a safe environment at any healthcare organization.

As a result, many practices have adopted a no-waiting-room policy, with patients waiting in their vehicles until their exam room is ready. But without patients in the waiting room, communicating pre-visit information, including when their provider is ready to see them, can be difficult to execute. 

For one Southeastern primary care practice, Phreesia’s Patient Chat offering bridges that communication gap by offering the ability to send individual patients customizable text message directly from the Phreesia Dashboard. It’s also saving the 10-location organization valuable time for its staff. 

As of April 25, the practice had sent nearly 1,300 text messages using Patient Chat. 

The practice’s workflow looks like this: 

  • A staff member sends a text message to the patient from the Dashboard, explaining important pre-visit information, such as the number to call when the patient arrives at the practice 
     
  • Once the text message is sent, the chat icon changes color to notify other staff members that a message has been sent to the patient 

  • After the patient notifies the practice that they have arrived, the staff can send another text once the exam room is ready 

Patient Chat also now supports two-way text messaging, allowing patients to text their response back to staff, rather than needing to call when they arrive for their appointment. 

Likewise, at a two-location otolaryngology practice, Patient Chat is a critical part of their patient communications.  

At that group, the parking lot is not located next to actual office. The day before an appointment, patients receive a Health Campaigns message from the practice explaining what they can expect before and during their visit.

On the day of the appointment, the practice leverages Patient Chat to send real-time text messages to patients to help avoid any confusion or inconvenience.  

Staff send an initial text message asking patients to stay in their car when they arrive and notify the office. Once the provider is ready, the practice staff send a follow-up text message letting patients know that they can enter the lobby. This helps ensure patients—especially older patients—avoid unnecessary long walks back to their vehicle if the practice wasn’t ready for them yet.

Lakeside Pediatrics Adds New Triage, Screening Process for Improved Safety During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 5, 2020 at 5:58 PM ET 

With patient and staff safety more top-of-mind than ever, healthcare organizations are weighing whether it’s necessary to bring each patient into the office for examination and treatment or whether it’s possible to provide care virtually.

At Lakeside Pediatrics, a two-location organization in Lakeland, Fla., leadership has implemented a number of new processes based on changing guidelines, including for screening patients for self-reported COVID-19 risk factors.

“We are using COVID-19 screening questionnaires for all patients who call us or come to the office to see us,” said Clark Buurma the practice’s Office Administrator.

Additionally, the practice implemented a new triage process for parents who call the office to schedule an appointment.  

 “All patient calls from parents go through a three-step process, which includes the patient being pre-screened by a staff member over the telephone before immediately speaking to a trained clinical staff member,” Buurma said. “Once the triage staff has completed their screening, the patient’s chart note is then screened by one of our six physicians.”

From there, Buurma adds, the doctor who reviews the patient’s chart note decides what next step is appropriate: self-care at home, a scheduled telehealth visit or an in-person visit at the office.

Currently, Lakeside Pediatrics is seeing patients seven days a week. For in-office visits, parents are instructed to call a specific phone number to notify staff that they’ve arrived for their appointment. The entire intake process—whether it’s completed prior to the visit or in parents’ vehicles in the practice’s parking lot—happens without face-to-face interaction in order to improve the safety of patients, parents and staff.

According to Buurma, parents are overwhelmingly patient with the new process and many have expressed gratitude for how the changes are still allowing their children to get the care they need without sacrificing safety.

“We want all of our patients and their parents to be as exposed as little as possible,” he said. “If we can assist them with their care in a way that keeps them safe, we will have accomplished our part in this fight against COVID-19.”

Webinar Recap: How a Leading Specialty Practice is Responding to COVID-19

May 12, 2020 at 6:30 PM ET 

On Friday, May 8, Phreesia hosted a webinar, “How a Leading Specialty Practice is Responding to COVID-19,” featuring Dr. Betsy Wernli, President of the Physician Board of Directors at Forefront Dermatology, a large dermatology group with 150 locations across 18 states.  

We interviewed Dr. Wernli about how she is leading her organization through this period of rapid change. Read on for five key takeaways from the webinar. 

1. Create an interdisciplinary COVID-19 taskforce  

In early March, Dr. Wernli established a COVID-19 taskforce that brought together a multidisciplinary team of physicians, public health experts and administrators. The group worked quickly to adjust operations and adopt new workflows that would protect patients and staff. Rather than waiting to find the perfect solution, they leveraged advice from Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Program at the World Health Organization who said, “You should be fast and have no regrets—you must be the first mover. The virus will always get you if you don’t move quickly. If you need to be right before you move, you’ll never win.”  

2. Develop COVID-19 safety protocols 

In the spirit of this advice, Forefront Dermatology’s COVID-19 taskforce took immediate action and implemented the following processes to allow their practices to safely remain open: 

  • They enabled telehealth appointments for patients who could be seen from home. This reduced patient contact in the office and simultaneously allowed Forefront Dermatology to capture visit volume that otherwise would have been lost.  

  • They developed and disseminated guidelines for standard cleaning procedures and sterilization techniques to help providers manage with a low supply of PPE.  

  • They took steps to minimize risk during patient check-in using Phreesia, including pre-screening patients for COVID-19 risk factors, using zero-contact intake (mobile registration) so patients could complete check in from their cars, and two-way texting to alert patients when to come inside. 
     
  • They shifted several teams, including scheduling, scribe and billing, to remote work in order limit contact.  

3. Remain open for urgent and emergent care

Dr. Wernli reminded listeners that non-COVID healthcare needs don’t stop for COVID-19 and may require in-person care.  

“Dermatology is a procedure-based specialty,” she said. “You can’t do a biopsy with telederm, and many diagnoses require visual and tactile processes.” Keeping practices like Forefront Dermatology open helps reduce unnecessary ED visits, she added. In addition, it encourages patients to seek care in a timely manner, rather than waiting until their condition worsens and becomes difficult to manage. 

4. Disseminate updates  

After developing new guidelines, Forefront Dermatology’s COVID-19 taskforce had to share updates with various stakeholders—their network of practices, their patients and their broader community of dermatologists.  

  • Network of practices: They worked with practices on a state-by-state basis to modify the guidelines according to variations in policy.  

  • Patients: They emailed patients and shared information on their website, detailing their processes for maintaining clean, safe facilities, provided educational materials about the virus, and advised patients on how and when to seek care.  

  • Dermatology community: They leveraged the assistance of the American Academy of Dermatology to share guidelines and patient education materials with dermatology groups outside their network  

5. Plan for the future 

As some states begin to reopen, Forefront Dermatology is shifting their focus to recovery strategies, including how to rebuild their schedules and manage a higher volume of patients again. Some of these strategies include: 

  • Expanding location hours of operation to include evenings, weekends and lunch hours 

  • Continuing to use telederm appointments to maintain social distancing in the office.

FQHC Improves Telehealth Process, Practice Communications with Phreesia’s COVID-19 Offerings

May 15, 2020 at 3:14 PM ET 

Like many other healthcare organizations, Whole Family Health Center, a federally qualified health center (FQHC), entered the new year with plans to implement telehealth sometime in the future. But for the Vero Beach, Fla.-based organization, the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans quickly.

“We had not done telehealth prior to coronavirus,” said Jamie Merritt, the center’s Vice President. “We wanted to move in that direction, but it was not a priority since we’re an FQHC. Fast forward to March, as COVID-19 began to spread, and we knew we had to make a decision very quickly.”

Whole Family Health Center launched telehealth visits over the course of a single weekend, spreading the word to patients through phone calls by Merritt and her administrative staff. The initial intake workflows were cumbersome for both providers and patients, however.

“If we had an older patient or a patient with comorbidities, our MA would call and have a phone visit with the patient,” Merritt said. “We’d find out how the patient would like the link to the telehealth visit sent, which sometimes including a provider sending the link to the patient. Navigating through that process with each patient was frustrating.”

Whole Family Health turned to Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth offering for a more efficient and easy-to-use experience. Now, patients receive the telehealth visit link within Phreesia Mobile.  

“Taking away all of those additional steps and having that link seems to be more helpful,” Merritt said. “It’s really reduced the amount of time for everyone involved.”

The 17-provider FQHC has also utilized Phreesia’s built-in templates for patient outreach efforts about telehealth and same-day appointments.  

“We’re experiencing a high volume of new patients, but we obviously need to make a concerted effort to maintain our established patients.” Merritt said. “Our communications to our patients have been frequent, so using those built-in templates through Phreesia has made it much easier and saved hours of time.”

Merritt credits the organization’s embrace of telehealth and Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth solution for the operational continuity they’ve been able to achieve so far.

“These new products have really helped us to maintain our schedules,” Merritt said. “We’re fully staffed and our clinics have stayed open.”

Webinar Recap: How a Leading Surgical Group is Safely Restarting Elective Procedures

June 1, 2020 at 5:28 PM ET 

Phreesia hosted a recent webinar about how to safely restart elective procedures at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the featured speakers was Dr. Charles Peterson II, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and the President and Board Chair of Proliance Surgeons, a multispecialty surgical and imaging practice with more than 100 locations across Washington State.  

Here are four main takeaways from Dr. Peterson’s remarks: 

Many “elective surgeries” are not entirely elective 

Although some elective surgeries can safely be postponedDr. Peterson explained there are others that are semi-urgent, including biopsies to diagnose cancer and joint replacements for patients experiencing severe pain. Further postponing diagnosis and treatment of these types of illnesses could make them more difficult to treat or potentially fatal. 

There are three criteria for determining which patients to treat now 

In AprilProliance Surgeons published a blueprint for reopening surgical facilities for elective procedures, which provided an algorithm for determining which procedures are appropriate to perform based on three main factors: 

  • The acuity of the patient’s disease 

  • The level oinfectious disease threat in the region 

  • The healthcare system’s capacity to respond to a surge of the infectious disease  

Patient buy-in is necessary to keep the community safe  

In preparation for restarting elective surgeries, Dr. Peterson and his team at Proliance Surgeons developed a patient-provider collaboration documentwhich explains the risks of patients and providers potentially infecting one another with COVID-19 during surgery and how to prevent it. Providers use this document to guide their discussion about which measures they are taking to reduce the spread of infection and to enforce social distancing with their patients so they will be less likely to infect providers and will have a better recovery after surgeryAccording to Dr. Peterson, “Most patients are very receptive to [the discussion]. An added benefit is that having it can help enrich the doctor-patient relationship.”   

COVID-19 screening builds confidence in reinstating elective procedures 

Finally, Proliance Surgeons screens every patient for COVID-19 symptomand contact with people who might have COVID-19 symptoms before they come to the office and again when they come in for their surgery. They check patients’ temperatures when they walk in the door and they also screen patients for self-reported COVID-19 risk factors at one-week, two-week, and three-week intervalsTheir hope is these results will help demonstrate to patients, legislators and policy leaders that they have been able to resume elective surgeries safely.   

Phreesia Helps The Derm Group Ramp Up Telehealth and Rebuild Its Schedule

May 22, 2020 at 2:43 PM ET 

As Alex Taner, Senior Director of Technology at The Derm Group, puts it, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the 51-provider dermatology organization would be an understatement.

In our recent webinar, “The Road to Recovery: Using Phreesia to Rebuild Your Schedule,” Taner shared that the group experienced a 95% drop in patient scheduling during the initial onset of the crisis. This resulted in some furloughs of practice staff and a drastic change in how they delivered care to their patients.

“We immediately had to pivot our focus from a physical practice to a virtual practice,” Taner said. “We spun up virtual visits in less than 10 days.”

By leveraging Zoom and Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth, The Derm Group is now seeing more than 300 virtual visits per day.  

Taner also credits Phreesia’s Health Campaigns for the success of the organization’s quick ramp up of telehealth visits during the pandemic. According to Tanner, the practice has sent over 200,000 emails to patients with links to reschedule appointments to telehealth.  

“What we’re seeing [from these communications] is the greatest influx of appointments that we’ve had during the virus,” Taner said.

In an effort not to overwhelm their staff, The Derm Group used Health Campaigns to target their outreach to specific groups of patients.  

“As soon as we turned on telehealth, we needed to let patients with upcoming in-office appointments, as well as those who had cancelled or no-showed to their in-office appointments, that they can reschedule to a telehealth visit,” said Kristen Barber, The Derm Group’s Head of Marketing. “Once we got through the rescheduling campaign, we executed a general campaign to let all of our patients know that we’re scheduling telehealth appointments, and even sent follow-up emails to those patients who didn’t open our first communication.”

Currently, The Derm Group is running a campaign to let patients know about a select number of physical location openings where they will see patients needing essential dermatological care.  

As Barber looks ahead, she’s already planning a health campaign for cosmetic dermatology appointments, once those are allowed again.  

“Clearly, we had to pivot all of our communications to telehealth and our physical locations as we begin the process of reopening,” Barber said. “Once we can start seeing cosmetic patients in the office again, we’ll start doing those campaigns and offer incentives for them to come in.”

Rapid implementation of telehealth, self-scheduling helps Family HealthCare Associates meet patient needs during pandemic 

June 8, 2020 at 5:33 PM ET 

Heading into 2020, Family HealthCare Associates’ strategic goals included launching both telehealth and self-scheduling. But like many other healthcare organizations, the 10-location, Dallas/Fort Worth-based practice had to pivot to virtual care much more quickly than originally planned because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We found our patients didn’t want to leave their homes in order to minimize their risk, so we initially asked our patients to defer all elective or preventive visits,” Leslie Skinner, the group’s Director of Data and Analytics, said during a recent webinar, “The Road to Recovery: Using Phreesia to Rebuild Your Schedule.”

The practice successfully launched virtual visits, which included implementing Phreesia’s Intake for Telehealth. This allowed Family HealthCare Associates to efficiently move 70% of its care to virtual care. After-hours care was also shifted entirely to virtual care.

The pandemic also pushed Family HealthCare Associates to implement self-scheduling much sooner than planned to make scheduling easier and more convenient for patients. “We found out through our patient satisfaction surveys that our patients would greatly appreciate 24/7, self-scheduling services,” Skinner said.  

The ability for patients to self-schedule their own appointments quickly benefited the practice, including in some unexpected ways.

“We’ve observed much lower on-hold wait times for our patients since self-scheduling doesn’t require any staff assistance,” Skinner said. “We’re providing faster customer service and have a greater ability to redirect staff to assist patients with other needs.”

“One of the unforeseen benefits of self-scheduling,” Skinner added, “was a big increase in pre-visit registration by our patients. Prior to COVID-19, we were seeing around a 45% pre-visit completion rate and now it’s risen up to 70%.”

Skinner attributes self-scheduling, along with Phreesia’s Appointment Reminders, for also helping to keep the practice’s schedules full and reduce missed appointments.

“With self-scheduling and appointment reminders, we’re seeing a reduction in our no-show rates,” Skinner said. “Appointments are quickly made available to our patients and we aren’t seeing the holes in our schedule like we were seeing previously.”

The response from patients has been overwhelmingly positive, he said, adding that it’s made them more likely to keep their appointments, even as the organization has shifted to primarily telehealth visits and away from its traditional in-person model.

During the initial two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Family Practice Associates of Lexington (FPA) had to make significant workflow changes as many in-office appointments were delayed or shifted to virtual visits.

But as May approached, the 20-provider, Kentucky-based practice began using Phreesia’s Self-Scheduling and Health Campaigns offerings to get many of those patients back into the office for past-due preventive appointments. “COVID-19 is always evolving, and what works today may not be a solution for next week,” said Virginia Burberry, the group’s Director of Clinical Education. “While dealing with the pandemic, we knew one of our biggest problems would be getting all those patients who canceled back into the office without overwhelming our staff.”

In just a few weeks, Burberry built 15 different Health Campaigns—targeted messages that engage specific groups of patients and prompt them to take a particular action, like scheduling a preventive-care appointment— and offered patients the ability to self-schedule their appointments. Even with a limited number of providers and appointment types available, FPA self-scheduled more than 750 appointments in May, and 21% of those self-scheduled appointments were booked outside of normal business hours.

“Our biggest targets were patients past due for an office visit for physicals, preventive services (bone density scans, diabetic retinopathy, stress tests, etc.) and medication management that included lab work,” Burberry said. “Patients are more likely to schedule preventive services when they have control of how and when it’s scheduled.”

The combination of Health Campaigns and Self-Scheduling has helped FPA rebuild its schedules quicker and allow patients to make their in-office appointments on their own time instead of having to wait on the phone. Additionally, they have allowed the group to focus on longer-term goals, rather than just the changing day-to-day workflows that resulted from the pandemic, Burberry said.  

 And by leveraging technology, staff have not been overwhelmed by the volume of new in-person visits, she added. “For every self-scheduled appointment, that was at least one fewer phone our staff had to take,” Burberry explained. “This freed up our staff to work on other tasks. Self-scheduling takes a lot of pressure off our staff. Plus, it helps to remove all the barriers patients can feel when making an appointment.”

From May 1-20, 45% of appointments self-scheduled or requested were for preventive-care visits. Additionally, 32% of patients eligible for mammography screenings requested appointments.

“I honestly couldn’t go back to not having these features now that we’ve experienced how beneficial they have been to our practice—all while adapting to this new normal with COVID-19,” Burberry said.

Family Practice Associates of Lexington Boosts In-Office Preventive Care Visits with Self-Scheduling and Health Campaigns

June 16, 2020 at 5:51 PM ET 

Using Phreesia’s Patient Chat, a Northwest Dermatology Group Increases Pre-Visit Patient Check-Ins

July 17, 2020 at 3:46 PM ET 

Keeping patients and staff safe by minimizing contact and reducing exposure during the intake process is more important than ever before.

For an eight-provider dermatology practice in the Northwest, improving the safety of its patients and staff meant focusing more efforts on encouraging patients to complete their intake on their own mobile device, prior to their appointment. The five-location practice turned to Phreesia’s Patient Chat feature to achieve that goal.  

Patient Chat allows the practice’s staff to have two-way text message conversations with individual patients about their upcoming virtual or in-person visit, directly from the Phreesia Dashboard.

“When Phreesia introduced its Patient Chat feature, we saw it as an opportunity to remind patients to complete their intake before arriving for their appointment,” said the practice’s Chief Operating Officer. “It's not only making the patient intake process more convenient for our patients and staff but safer as well, now that we're seeing more patients use their mobile devices to complete Pre-Visit.”

Here are some of the examples of Patient Chat messages sent by the practice to its patients:

“Please complete your online check in before your appointment today at..."

“Please complete your online registration before your appointment tomorrow, July 16th. Thank you!”

"Hi, I see you haven't started your online check in. Please have it competed before your visit Thursday. Thank you!”


In just under two months of using Patient Chat, the dermatology practice has sent more than 1,500 messages. The group has also seen a 19% increase in pre-visit check-ins and a 12% increase in balance collections among those patients who checked in beforehand.

Through these real-time conversations, staff and patients are able to safely communicate while still allowing the practice to shift its intake workflows and meet operational goals during the pandemic.

Kentucky’s largest retina practice leverages Phreesia to keep its vulnerable patient population safe during COVID-19

August 20, 2020 at 2:14 PM ET 

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Retina Associates of Kentucky (RAK), the state’s largest retina practice, took immediate precautions, largely due to the demographics of its patient base. Approximately 80% of its patients are age 65 or older – the age group most vulnerable to complications or death related to the virus.

“We started off with the small things that we could change immediately,” said Marisa Riding, RAK’s Front Office Manager. “We pulled out all of the magazines, pens and reading materials from the waiting room. We staggered chairs to keep at least six feet in between them and even removed most of the waiting room furniture to accommodate social distancing measures.”

More big-picture changes followed soon after as RAK leaned on Phreesia’s Mobile pre-registration capabilities as well as its COVID-19 Screening Module to improve the safety of its patients and staff. “We have so many patients that are high-risk, due to age and health conditions. Our primary patient demographic is the most afraid to come out of their homes,” Riding said. “We’re not allowing caregivers in with the patients, either, so pre-registration has definitely increased since the pandemic started. It’s the best way to keep both caregivers and patients in the loop.”

To help boost pre-registration, RAK has also leveraged Phreesia’s Patient Chat tool, which allows the practice to hold two-way test message conversations with individual patients prior to their appointment.

Here’s an example of a text message the practice sent to patients, via Patient Chat:

“Hello from Retina Associates of Kentucky! Please complete the pre-registration sent to your text/email before your appointment. Thank you!” 

If the practice doesn’t hear back from the patient, they send a follow-up message to make sure the patient or caregiver completes pre-registration or to determine whether they need the forms emailed instead.

“Patient Chat has really streamlined the patient visit for us, too,” Riding said. “We’re also able to use it to let caregivers know patients are ready to be picked up. It’s helped improve the safety of patients and staff by reducing exposure in the office.”

The ability of Phreesia’s tools to minimize face-to-face contact between patients and staff is especially important now as more patients begin returning to the office and the demand for care rises.

“A lot of our patients delayed their care in March, April and May,” Riding said. “Patients we saw maybe once every six months, we’re now seeing more often to catch them up on their care. We’re scheduling appointments for patients who should have come in May or June, but we haven’t seen them since February.”

“If we did not have Phreesia and we were still using paper,” she added, “we would be really inefficient and at greater risk of exposure. We would be looking for something exactly like Phreesia.”

Phreesia Clients Share Best Practices for Communicating to Patients About Vaccines and Preventive Care During COVID-19

September 10, 2020 at 4:45 PM ET 

As healthcare organizations are preparing for the convergence of both COVID-19 and influenza, and providers are working to ensure patients receive the vaccinations and preventive care they need.

During Phreesia’s webinar on Aug. 27, “Road to Recovery: Getting Patients in for Vaccinations and Other Preventive Care During COVID-19,” leaders from Capital Area Pediatrics and The Primary Health Network shared their first-hand experiences on how they’re communicating with patients about why it’s important and necessary to schedule flu vaccinations and other preventive care appointments.

Allie Ankeny, Chief Operations Officer at Capital Area Pediatrics, shared that the practice saw its visit volume decrease by more than 80% during the early stages of the pandemic. The staff knew something had to be done to bring patients back into the office.

“We created a ‘special forces team,’ which was primarily a coordinated outbound outreach from our call center, talking to patients who were overdue for a wellness visit,” Ankeny said. “One part of our outreach was to develop scripting that assured scared patients our office was a safe place to be, and that their child’s wellness visits are essential for their health.

Capital Area Pediatrics also helped patients feel reassured by assigning specific days for well visits and sick visits and by offering Phreesia’s contactless check-in experience.

“Phreesia has been a welcomed addition to our services,” Ankeny said. “Since they’ve checked in ahead of time, patients are able to wait in their vehicles instead of in the waiting room. It’s been pivotal in bringing patients back in and has helped us respond to parental challenges.”

Similarly, The Primary Health Network embraced a personalized approach to help convince patients to return for preventive care appointments.

“During the early parts of the pandemic, there were a large number of individuals who were not able to receive direct, in-person care,” said Dr. George Garrow, the FQHC’s Chief Medical Officer. “We began a process of personally reaching out to those patients who were scheduled to come in to see if we can do anything to help and to schedule them for their overdue visit.”

Garrow shared that relationship-building has been a key component of the outbound success. His staff takes the time to explain the importance of preventive services and vaccinations, especially during such an unprecedented time. The conversations rarely stop there, though.  

“We also use it as an opportunity to see if patients have any behavioral health or social needs related to isolation and housing and food insecurity by screening patients and families for social determinants of health (SDOH) through Phreesia,” he said.  

Both Capital Area Pediatrics and The Primary Health Network are already promoting this year’s flu vaccine to their patients.

“This year, more parents than ever are clamoring for getting their kids flu shots,” Ankeny said. “We’re rushing to get our flu response up and running by trying some new things like a drive-through clinic where patients are able to receive their vaccinations without stepping foot in one of our offices.”

Although Capital Area Pediatrics hasn’t yet received the flu vaccine, they are expecting it soon and will be leveraging Phreesia’s Health Campaigns to communicate to patients and their families about importance of getting a flu vaccine.

“Our messaging on every platform is that we want you to get your flu vaccine. Our messaging is much earlier this year,” Ankeny added.

Dr. Garrow says that he and his staff have already begun administering the flu vaccine to patients. The Pennsylvania-based FQHC is working through ideas on how to make the vaccine more accessible, including drive-up immunizations and vaccine days. Ultimately, Dr. Garrow believes effective communication about vaccines comes down to a commitment to educating patients.

“Education is really the cornerstone for everyone to better understand the importance of the flu vaccine,” Garrow said. “I think more people would be open to its benefits and value.