QliqSOFT’s recent webinar, “Elevate Patient Experiences: How a Chatbot can Increase Your Patients’ Satisfaction,” explored healthcare executives' top obstacles when successfully integrating digital patient engagement tools into practice, with just some of these hurdles including:
- Juggling multiple projects at once with scarce staffing resources,
- Making a choice from the explosion of novel digital technologies saturating the market,
- Staff reluctance,
- Lack of time commitment, and
- Knowing where to start.
Featured speaker Jose Rocha, Director of Corporate Business Office Performance at First Choice Neurology (FCN), the largest U.S. neurology group based in Medley, Florida, brought the realities of these hurdles to life. He discussed how his private practice-owned company overcame them by digitizing their patient journey using QliqSOFT’s secure messaging, virtual visits, and chatbots.
A compelling success story, Rocha shared the big takeaways from going digital and how it has increased their long-term, sustainable success.
Why FCN went digital
The time was November 2019, just before the pandemic. FCN was hosting, on average, 90 telemedicine visits per month via their practice-wide electronic health record (EHR). Physicians expressed concerns with the EHR’s lack of fully functional telemedicine capabilities, calling out the system’s inability to auto-generate intake processes, forms, orders, and patient education materials.
“With telemedicine, we had a problem where patients weren't receiving our orders,” said Rocha. “It was hard to either mail them or fax them. It was hard for patients to send us their registration information in advance. It was hard for them if something had changed with their insurance. Coordinating information back and forth in a HIPAA-secure manner was practically impossible.”
During their search for a full telemedicine solution, FCN leaders discovered that QliqSOFT brought to the table all types of mission-critical digital patient communications. Though hesitant initially, FCN leaders “decided to take a leap of faith,” Rocha said, explaining that “terms like chatbot and AI made people nervous.”
“I’ve been doing practice management for 20-plus years,” he added. “I can walk into any medical office with my eyes closed and tell you where most things are, no matter the specialty. But this whole AI and chatbot technology is so new. I actually thought a computer science degree was needed.”
How did FCN make the leap?
In March 2020, FCN launched its digital implementation roadmap. The first priority was organizing the digitization of tasks to support its 90 neurologists and other physician specialists working at 45 site locations. FCN considered each practice a care center or department servicing a collective of 230,000 patients and 42 hospitals yearly across five Florida counties.
Newly created subgroups helped to split up the uniformity of chatbot customization to accommodate each participating specialty practice’s unique digital needs. For example, FCN’s revenue cycle department leveraged chatbots to collect payments – later credited as a game-changer for increasing revenue. The medical prescription team, who manage toxins, e.g., BOTOX® and other specialty medications, required special authorization involving complex communication and coordination with health insurers, prescribers, and patients. FCN and QliqSOFT built custom-designed chatbots to address these practices’ requirements, speeding time to therapy.
During the throes of the pandemic, when most people stayed home, FCN increased its 90 telemedicine visits monthly to 1,000 daily. “That time period was chaotic as we tried to figure out how best to serve the patient,” Rocha commented. “QliqSOFT was instrumental in getting us the tools and keeping our offices up and running. Every time we thought about a new digital project, we realized the AI automation was literally very easy to do.”
Individual customization of forms for every specialty physician previously meant retaining FCN’s EHR partner at a cost of approximately $2,000 per form. “If we wanted to customize certain things, digitizing was probably the closest thing to an act of God,” said Rocha. “We started realizing how easy it was to do all these forms using AI. With QliqSOFT digitizing forms was fast and free. We moved forward digitizing one office at a time.”
By the second month of going digital, employees took notice. By the third month, doctors and staff began “boasting about the system and saying how much they liked and appreciated it,” he added.
Building chatbots is surprisingly easy and effective
FCN embarked on building customized chatbots to address its unique patient engagement needs. “Chatbots are not difficult to build. It's literally plug-and-play. ‘What do you want it to do? How do you want it to do it?’ You put your mouse over any of these icons, and it tells you what it does and how we could do it,” Rocha said. “We also had tremendous support from QliqSOFT any time we’d go to them.”
Rocha shared that chatbots labeled MD Notify, Visit Prep, Payment Pal, Covid-10 Assessment, Curbside Check-in, and Demo “pretty much run the routine of the office. These different robots actually do different jobs for us that were taking up staff time,” he added.
In a nutshell, the Demo chatbot auto-forwards the patient registration intake forms to the patient days before the scheduled visit. The virtual demo explains to the patient the process and purpose of each form, flags missing mandatory information to complete, and thanks the individual for their submission.
Rocha recommended that practices limit requiring the patient to answer too many “mandatory” intake questions posed by the chatbot, especially for people classified under certain demographics. He explained the average age of an FCN patient is the late 50s, diagnosed with a variety of neurological conditions. Some patients are capable of completing online forms, and some are assisted by caregivers who reportedly enjoy filling out the “much easier” virtual intake paperwork. Overall, 95% of patients opted for digital over paper.
No more crowded waiting rooms
One notable outcome of FCN’s virtual intake is that their waiting rooms today are less full. Older patients and people with memory and cognitive issues can take as much time as needed to electronically complete and submit forms from the convenience of their homes. “As patients arrive, we just walk them into their exam room,” Rocha said.
First Choice Neurology used the same chatbot technology to perform curbside check-in. Practices with fewer employees who needed manpower support could redirect patients to FCN’s central office to conduct the remote check-in. This virtual coordination saved a physician’s smaller practice from closing or searching for a willing staff member to stand in.
After developing business-critical chatbots, the FCN team turned its attention to widgets. These chatbot interfaces helped determine conversation flow. As FCN continued rethinking processes, practices became increasingly comfortable using chatbots and initiating new changes.
FCN’s results are impressive
Over the last three years, FCN has reaped the following wide-ranging benefits from its practices using the QliqSOFT digital tools:
- 22 % reduction in overtime. Staff no longer had to scan paper documents during lunchtime or after work hours. Documents were already delivered digitally and automatically uploaded into the EHR.
- Physicians have more flexibility in their work schedules. A physician’s day schedule is no longer backed up beyond capacity. Simply put, patients show up. Their patient admittance forms are complete and already delivered digitally. The patient is escorted into the examination room, seen, and discharged, in some cases, earlier. Doctors find themselves ending their day at 4:30 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. or later.
- Increased revenue. Thanks to the new scheduling efficiencies, some physicians chose to add more patients to their day, which led to new revenue growth.
- Reduction in consumables. Incidental expenses such as printer ink or toner cartridges, paper and shredding, and printer usage decreased dramatically.
- Patient satisfaction skyrocketed. People continue to be ecstatic about not having to sit in close quarters in overly crowded waiting rooms.
- Employee job satisfaction improved. A staff member who before paid $200 per month in after-hours day care for her child now leaves work on time, no longer incurring the extra expense.
- Ease of use. “QliqSOFT is very simple to use. It does take some work initially, but we were probably scaring ourselves, which was more of the issue than the software itself. The QliqSOFT team has been exceptional at supporting us ─ even with our crazy ideas, they've been phenomenal in getting things done,” commented Rocha.
One practice’s digital adoption drives growth
Rocha shared that digital adoption shared an example of one physician’s revenue between February and March of 2020 (the QliqSOFT rollout) and December 2022. From 2020 to 2021, the provider increased their patient count by 10%, which led to an 8% increase in revenue. From 2021 to 2022, this same physician, whose office had mastered using QliqSOFT technology, experienced a 22% increase in patients seen, leading to a 15% increase in revenue. Between the years 2020 to 2022, the practice observed a 34% increase overall in patient flow.
Bobbi Weber is the VP of Portfolio Management and Field Strategy at QliqSOFT. Bobbi is a lifelong learner who is passionate about enabling healthcare transformation. She has 20+ years of healthcare experience, in care delivery, consulting, healthcare IT, and market strategy.
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