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Exploring the partnership between clinical access and patient experience

Delivering timely healthcare services can improve outcomes when clinical access and patient experience foster a collaborative approach. But to get to that nirvana, healthcare organizations must address the gap between patience and how long people are willing to wait to be seen.  

“The tolerance for how long people are willing to put up with some system issues is starting to decrease,” says Mandy Riemer, MSW, Manager of Patient Experience at Children’s Mercy, speaking during the 2024 NRC Health Pediatric Collaborative. “For the first time in a long time, it’s really just widening. So consumers still love our people, but they’re growing increasingly frustrated with our systems.” 

Want to learn more from Children’s Mercy? Check out the full presentation from the 2024 Pediatric Collaborative.

Using patient feedback to improve care delivery

How can we really improve our access and patient and family experience?” asks Dr. Ahmed Abdelmoity, MD, FAAP, FAES, Vice President of Clinical Access at Children’s Mercy. “Let me be a little bit disruptive here and say that improving access doesn’t necessarily improve the experience. A lot of times, it will do the very opposite. How can we improve the patient experience through access, and vice versa, in a circular manner?”

Abdelmoity says that when Children’s Mercy started this work, they figured out they had a little over 2,000 appointment types. (Yes—two thousand.) He says he’s very proud that they only have 16 appointment types now. 

“I had to really figure out what my denominator is, so I can improve on it to get a percentage at the end,” he says. “What are the key metrics? What data are meaningful for the families, and not just something to make ourselves look good?”  

Access-Initiative Goals 

  • Improve patient access and experience, thereby improving access metrics 
  • Improve staff productivity and experience 
  • Ensure staff are working to top-of-scope 
  • Ensure patients are sent by the right provider, in the right time frame, at the right location 
  • Increase scheduling accuracy 

I had to measure it to see how we are improving in all our KPIs,” Abdelmoity says. “And of course, it must align with many other areas, our contact center, and our referrals. We educated our referring providers internally and externally. This has to be supported with the top administration and has to have buy-in from the front staff, seeing the value and why that is.” 

The power of timely healthcare services for better health outcomes

Children’s Mercy worked on the technical optimization of their contact center, which included reorganizing the center using Talkdesk, a cloud-based contact center incorporating AI-powered customer service, and their referral enhancement tools. 

“Our abandoned rates, the number of calls that are not answered—we had to measure it as one thing, but to benchmark it as something else,” Abdelmoity says. “So we went to the Children’s Hospital Associationn and the patient access collaborative and asked them to share with us the benchmark, because we want to be in the top ten percent. The red line, that’s the top ten percent, so anything below that is better. Ten percent means that eight percent of my calls are abandoned. We’re sitting at around 2.5% of our calls, which are now abandoned after implementing what I just shared with you by dividing our contact center. 

“Our patients and our families used to wait almost three minutes until somebody could talk with them,” he adds. “Now it’s less than a minute.” 

How to integrate human-centered design

Children’s Mercy used predictive and analytical AI to look at their books and predict the likelihood of a patient showing up. If patients had missed fewer than 14% of appointments in the last six months, their likelihood of attending was 95%. If they’d missed more than 47% of appointments scheduled in the last six months, their likelihood of attending was only 44%. 

The patient-based data points examined included race, ethnicity, sex, age, language, payor type, distance traveled, and whether a patient was new or a follow-up. 

Based on all of the numerous strategies to improve clinical access and experience, Children’s Mercy’s had the following results: 

  • Their contribution margin improved by $12.6 million between FY22 and FY23, and it continues to improve in FY24.  
  •  “True North” metrics found that their stretch goal of the percentage of new patient appointments scheduled and seen within 14 days continues to increase each month.  
  • Their unfilled slot rate hovers at the CM target for 15%, putting Children’s Mercy in the top one or two children’s hospitals in the CHAC for slot utilization.  
  • Their delivery index is on target for the end of Q1.  
  • Their contact-center centralized scheduling has remarkably improved call handling since implementing Talkdesk technology.

Click here to view the entire presentation from the NRC Health 2024 Pediatric Conference.