Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

By enabling caregivers to file paperwork electronically with Windows Phone and Allscripts, First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah dramatically reduced mileage expenses.

The Nokia Lumia 710 is one of the latest Windows Phone handsets; First Choice Home Health uses Verizon 3G devices.

Often, the simplest solution is the best solution for small businesses. That philosophy is well-illustrated by a mobile application that has helped First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah save more than $500,000 annually.

Although the healthcare provider originally consider notebooks and tablet computers for the solution, it turned out that the fastest way to get its clinical staff out in the field using the software was to let them use it with their Windows Phones. That's important because some of the provider's caregivers were logging up to 2,500 miles per years in mileage, just to come into the main office to file paperwork. The application, from developer Allscripts, helps make that process electronic.

"Computers felt like a barrier to the patient," said Beau Sorenson, CFO of First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah. "It didn't feel like a good patient/clinician connection. So we ended up working with Allscripts to find a device that supported the application.

First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah supports approximately 400 patients in four counties, through a network of about 160 employees (most of them remote clinicians). The Allscripts software that  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah is using allows caregivers to file information about their visits by using an interface on their mobile phones. The organization originally tried out the software using broadband wireless cards and laptops, but the phones allow filing to happen much more quickly, according to Sorenson. What's more, he said it was easier to train staff on the new application.

Since deploying the beta version of the software application about a year ago, Sorenson said  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah has dramatically speeded up the amount of time it takes to get Medicare reimbursements: cutting the process to 45 days from 90 days. The software has helped reduced employee travel by about 70 percent, in terms of the miles traveled to and from the office to file paperwork. The organization also reports a 17 percent in clinician productivity, meaning that they can see more patients with the time they are cutting out in administrative duties.

Overall, the savings so far from the mobile technology have been more than $500,000, Sorenson said.

I asked Sorenson to share a few tips for small-business owners or managers thinking about using similar technology to drive efficiency within their organization. Here are some of his thoughts:

  • Keep it simple. Sometimes the most advanced technology solution isn't the best one. While  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah initially tried laptops for the Allscripts software, it got in the way of the patient-caregiver connection. Plus, the wireless network required for transmission wasn't always reliable, although it was fast.
  • Get executives involved. Sorenson, who lived in Japan for several years, said the plan for the mobile technology was discussed among managers internally for some time before deciding to proceed. By making line-of-business executives part of the decision, the technology was adopted more readily. "The most important thing is to make sure everyone is on the same page," he said.
  • Use early adopters as evangelists. Within your organization, there are likely to be some who are more enthusiastic than most about the new technology. Use them to help train and help others incorpore these tools into business processes.
  • Make the transition quick. Initially, First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah moved just some of its caregivers to the electronics filing process. This resulted in a solution that was harder to support than the original way. "As a result, we didn't realize the savings the way we could have," Sorenson said. "Try to do it all at once wherever possible."

More details on the  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah solution can be found in this Microsoft case study write-up.