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Lancaster law firm collaborates on survey tool for medical practices

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Think about your last doctor appointment. Did you wait long to be seen by the doctor? Was your time with the physician rushed? When you left, did the practice ask you how your most recent visit went?

Patient satisfaction is becoming more important in health care, and new payment models are being created that reimburse physicians based on performance rather than on the traditional fee-for-service model.

Organizations like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are creating these new payment models, setting a precedent for commercial payers to reimburse physicians based on patient satisfaction and the quality of health care provided.

To capitalize on this health care trend, a Lancaster County-based health care law firm has partnered with a South Carolina-based health care consulting company to create software that collects information from patients and physicians to improve practice management.

Developed by Saxton & Stump and SE Healthcare Quality Consulting, the software is called the Physician Empowerment Suite.

“The world of health care has changed and is now focusing on value-based metrics instead of volume,” said Dr. Phil Schauer, president of SE Healthcare and a professor of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.

Practices have been using the software for several years, but it officially went on the market in 2016.

The software was a collaborative effort involving physicians, economists and professionals from both Saxton & Stump and SE Healthcare.

“You have to be thinking several years ahead with the industry right now,” Jim Saxton, CEO of Saxton & Stump said.

Suite covers two sides

Since its launch, several thousand practices across the country have been using all or parts of the suite, according to Saxton.

Practices pay a monthly subscription fee, but there is no set-up fee or upfront fee to use the product. The companies declined to share the cost.

The suite includes two different platforms – one that measures patient satisfaction and one that reviews clinical effectiveness.

To gauge satisfaction, practices can survey patients on their experiences, and then track and monitor the results.

Patients will receive an email after their visit asking them to complete a survey. The response rate ranges from 30 percent to 40 percent, Saxton said.

The data goes back to doctors in real time.

To measure clinical effectiveness, the suite can track physicians to determine whether they’re following best practices within their specialties.

A survey asks doctors questions that are relevant to safety, reimbursement and patient engagement.

It also provides educational resources and information for doctors to make improvements.

Users include Urology of Central PA

Urology of Central PA, which has a midstate office in Harrisburg, has been using the Physician Empowerment Suite since September 2013. The practice made a few changes as a result of the patient surveys, according to Andrea Deitz, director of clinical operations.

The changes include telling patients when a doctor is running behind so they can rearrange their schedules or make new appointments. The practice also has begun explaining to patients more clearly how to use and take their medications.

Deitz described the tool as a cost-effective option, and said that it helped the practice determine whether it was doing as well as it thought it was.

“I think moving forward we’ll get reimbursed at higher rates for outstanding customer service,” Deitz said.

Not only does the tool show results from a single practice, it compares the results to other practices across the country.

Urology of Central PA typically sees an average of 1,000 patients per week. It surveys patients with a valid email address, but only if they haven’t been surveyed in the past 90 days.

Value in results

In some cases, higher reimbursements for better customer service are already coming.

Susquehanna Township-based Capital BlueCross has introduced alternative physician payment models that focus on patient satisfaction and quality of care.

Patient satisfaction results are key, and Capital BlueCross allows practices to choose their own patient satisfaction measurement or use one provided by the insurer.

The value in measuring patient satisfaction is in seeing how a practice or physician is improving, according to Shelley Grant, senior director of provider engagement and innovation at Capital BlueCross.

“The biggest thing is to benchmark or compare performance time period over time period,” Grant said. 

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