RuralHouseCalls.com was the first patient portal launched in the Wabash Valley. In 2007, the service was created to empower patients and provide them with the convenience of online connectivity to be able to request electronic visits (e-visits) and submit non-urgent medical questions to their provider as well as schedule medical appointments, refill prescriptions, and check on completed laboratory tests from the comfort of their home or other non-clinic location.
The secondary purpose of the project was to improve physician office workflow and staff efficiency, allowing more provider time for patient care and resulting in increased efficacy. While EMR (electronic medical record) is a powerful tool for managing patient information, it used to lack the ability to obtain or to share information electronically with patients beyond the practice. Subsequently, physicians and office staff were forced to continue using costly and inefficient paper-based communication workflows.
This project provided select patients at a rural clinic, the Clay City Center for Family Medicine (CCCFM), and an urban clinic, the Union Hospital Family Medicine Center (FMC), with the ability to conduct virtual visits, or e-visits, with their family doctors. In addition to improving access to care, RuralHouseCalls improved clinical workflows and eliminated costly error-prone paper-based transmissions which resulted in optimal flow of information and better patient care and outcomes. The workflow improvement associated with the ensuing reduction of phone calls and subsequent paper elimination is estimated to save an average of $10 per referral.
Patient satisfaction surveys indicated that they do not like to play phone tag with their health care offices and providers. They were unsatisfied with being “on hold” for lengthy periods during telephone communication. Today’s health care consumer wants to put down the phone and pick up the mouse (and even now more than ever, their smartphone). This project enabled patients at FMC and CCCFM to do that. Feedback from patients enrolled in the program also indicated that they’d rather use the web portal when applicable (for non-urgent matters) than take half-a-day off of work in order to come to the office. A comparison of random sample of patients enrolled in the project and ones that were not showed a 50% reduction in call volume of appointment and prescription refill requests for the “online patients.”
Patient portals have become the norm over the past few years and are an expected platform for communication for both patients and providers. This pilot initiative helped start the online journey for patients in the Wabash Valley.
Click here to learn more about what the Lugar Center has done to improve patient outcomes with technology and telehealth.