Loma Linda University Health has worked diligently to improve access to care for patients. These efforts have focused on increasing appointment availability, simplifying scheduling and allowing patients to schedule online through a patient portal. One challenge compounding patient access for the organization was the high number of appointment cancellations, many of which are for same-day or next-day appointments.
To address this, Loma Linda University Health dedicated itself to utilizing health information and technology to automate new appointment offers to waitlisted patients. The objective was to decrease the need for a laborious phone call system and to increase revenue by filling slots vacated by late cancellations. Leadership invested the time and resources to plan, test and activate the auto-fill waitlist functionality in the patient portal.
Physician leadership tasked the information services team to work with outpatient clinics and centralized scheduling to implement utilization of the patient portal to send waitlist notifications. Adult cardiology was selected as a pilot site before full rollout. In testing, the information services team used a copy of the electronic medical record system’s “production environment.” The copy model allowed operational staff to see what real-life results would be each day of the pilot period, as well as verify that business guidelines for offering appointments were appropriately followed. After piloting, the system was rolled out to include 134 of Loma Linda University Health's 181 ambulatory clinics. As a result, Loma Linda University Health has improved patient access to outpatient services and filled more cancelled appointments, leading to better customer service and business efficiency.
During the first three months of implementation, Loma Linda University Health was able to give waitlisted patients who accepted an automated offer an appointment averaging 32 days sooner than their original appointment, and as much as 173 days sooner. This greatly lessened inconvenient gaps in health providers’ schedules and in operational efficiency, created a positive return on investment (ROI) of $185,850, with an estimated annual ROI of more than $700,000. After six months, the number of entries on patient waitlists doubled, indicating growing patient demand for the service as well as staff adoption of the process. Another positive outcome observed was an increase in the percentage of patients activating their patient portal, a key piece in improving patients’ access to their health information and health providers.
HIMSS Analytics is proud to recognize Loma Linda University Health for its validation as a Stage 7 healthcare system, as tracked by the Outpatient Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (O-EMRAM). The organization also revalidated at Stage 7 for the in-patient EMRAM adoption model.
“Loma Linda University Health continues to demonstrate its commitment to effectively using health information and technology to transform healthcare in their community,” said John H. Daniels, CCNM, FACHE, FHIMSS, CPHIMS, global vice president, HIMSS Analytics. “On the heels of achieving EMRAM Stage 7 last year for their hospital, they have expanded the incredible impact of their health information and technology investments into their outpatient clinics.
“In addition to the positive results of a program to manage chronic opioid use in their community, they have also significantly improved access to care and patient satisfaction by implementing a redesigned appointment waitlist that automatically sends patients notifications when an earlier appointment opportunity becomes available.”
“Increasing patients’ access to their physicians and other healthcare providers improves customer satisfaction, enhances their healthcare experience, and creates business efficiency,” said Anthony Hilliard, MD, interventional cardiologist and chief operating officer of Loma Linda University Health’s faculty physician practice group. “Deploying our patient portal’s auto-waitlist feature has exemplified how electronic medical records are vital to patient and institutional health.”
Read another Stage 7 success story: National Institutes of Health Improves Clinical Decision-Making with Blood Volume Tracking Tools