The outpatient rehabilitation clinics of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, based in North Carolina, have been on the latest leg of their digital transformation journey since 2015, when they implemented ReDoc® classic, Net Health Therapy’s legacy rehab therapy EHR. “We had computerized scheduling at the time, but still used paper documentation,” reflected Alicia DeBord, Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation Services. “This led to issues with timely and accurate completion of records, which would sometimes be a drag on efficiency during treatment and on accuracy in charging.”
What’s more, DeBord added, staff had to work overtime to complete documentation. “You could drive by our clinic any time and there would be somebody’s car here,” she said. Emily Roberts, System Director of Rehabilitation Services, stated, “Our goal is for our therapists to have work-life balance – when they walk out of here, they’re done. We have a staff of productive and self-motivated therapists and administrators, and we want to give them the tools they need to succeed.”
Everyone was working hard and getting the job done, and patients received the quality of care they needed and deserved, but DeBord, Roberts and the staff knew they could raise the bar even more.
Seizing the Opportunity
Appalachian Regional’s outpatient rehabilitation clinics have a long history of delivering quality care in the fields of physical therapy and occupational therapy, and more recently, speech-language pathology. When Appalachian Regional began the process of rolling out a new system-wide electronic health records (EHR) platform in 2015, the outpatient clinics seized the opportunity to improve their tools.
“It became clear that the EHR company selected did not have a platform that supported therapy,” Roberts shared. “The expense to build an outpatient rehab program that would work for the things that we needed it to do was significant, so we made the case that we needed our own rehab-specific software.”
Roberts and DeBord wanted a platform that they could get up and running quickly, at a reasonable cost, and which came with therapy functionality out of the box. While some systems they evaluated could be perfectly customized with significant investments of time and resources, and others might have been inexpensive but were not tailor-made for outpatient therapy, “ReDoc® classic landed in the middle of those needs,” DeBord said. It offered therapy templates out of the box, integration with core hospital platforms, including billing, and a consolidation of tools and workflows.
As the clinic staff became familiar with ReDoc® classic over the next couple of years, maximizing their efficiency with the software and the return on their investment, they turned their attention to the next upgrade – to the next wave of digital transformation.
Moving to Digital Transformation
Digital transformation means a lot of things, including cloud-based deployment of systems, reduction of manual processes, and more tightly integrated systems. Perhaps above all else, though, digital transformation is cultural. It is a bottom-up embrace of modular systems and flexible processes that can grow and evolve on demand, enabling continuous improvement. It was with this philosophy in mind that Appalachian Regional upgraded to Net Health® Therapy for Hospital Outpatient (formerly ReDoc® powered by xfit®), positioning the outpatient clinics for the next wave of growth.
“The biggest factors in upgrading to Net Health Therapy,” DeBord shared, “were cloud-based deployment, allowing more frequent upgrades without needing to depend on the healthcare system’s IT staff to assist, and merging scheduling and documentation into the same platform. We have a lot of interfaces between our clinics and the hospital’s billing and registration systems. Any time we needed to update ReDoc® classic, we had to schedule around IT’s availability. We have a great IT staff, but this meant waiting our turn for upgrades, rather than having them pushed automatically.” Rounding out the value proposition, Roberts pointed to major improvements to auditing and reporting functions. The team has seen better than a 50% reduction – in some cases, as much as an 80% reduction – in time spent preparing for and conducting monthly and ad hoc reports and audits.
ReDoc® classic represented a major leap forward for Appalachian Regional’s outpatient clinics. Staff were more efficient and productive, enjoyed better work-life balance, and integrations with core system interfaces allowed for more streamlined workflows. Now, the migration to Net Health Therapy has empowered Appalachian Regional to continually raise the bar for their standard of care, while growing rapidly to meet increasing demand for services. “When we went to ReDoc® classic, we had about eight to 10 therapists at the office in Boone, and now we have 23,” DeBord said. Appalachian Regional’s therapists and administrators come to work every day to help people feel better. With software designed specifically for their needs, the tools themselves become something of an afterthought, and the team can focus even more on every patient.