Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) is one of the largest multiple-specialty healthcare clinic networks in its region. The company’s mission is to deliver high-quality healthcare by creating a strong patient-centric and service-focused environment. PacMed had this mission in mind in 2009 when it began constructing its Canyon Park Clinic in Bothell, Washington. “As we were building the new facility, patient satisfaction was a key driver,” explains Dr. Brett Daniel, Medical Director at Canyon Park Clinic, Pacific Medical Centers. “We wanted to reduce the time patients spend in waiting rooms and improve communication with both patients and staff.”
“In a typical clinic, a medical assistant spends a lot of the day walking, getting patients, and bringing them from a waiting area to an exam room, which makes the staff unavailable to help the clinicians,” adds Linda Eremic, Director of Primary Care and Shared Services for Pacific Medical Centers. “The doctors, in turn, spend a lot of time looking for that support staff, resulting in a noisy clinic with people walking around and calling for each other. Time is also wasted searching for lost equipment.”
PacMed also sought to increase the number of patients seen in the clinic each day and to better track staff, patients, available rooms, medical equipment, and other assets. To achieve these goals, PacMed looked at traditional color-coded exam room flags, wireless headsets to coordinate the front desk with medical staff, and add-on tracking tools for electronic medical record (EMR) systems. Although each of these options addressed some of the clinic’s needs, none addressed them all. Instead, PacMed sought a single solution for communication, tracking, and workflow management.
In late 2009, PacMed chose to deploy Versus Advantages™, a real-time locating solution (RTLS) created by Versus Technology, a Microsoft Certified Partner. The system combines radio frequency identification (RFID) and infrared (IR) tracking of badges and tags to identify people and equipment and to display their location and status on a computer screen. It also provides rules-based automation to streamline clinical workflows. “I was researching what other modern clinics were using when I stumbled across Versus,” says Daniel. “When I saw how the solution worked, the light went on, and I realized it would be ideal for the Canyon Park clinic.”
"The Versus real-time locating solution helped us design our clinic to increase patient flow by 35 to 40 percent and double net revenue projections."
Dr. Brett Daniel
Versus Advantages™ is built on the Microsoft .NET Framework using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional development system. It runs on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system along with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software. The solution interoperates with a variety of healthcare software, such as the clinic’s GE Centricity practice management system and its Epic EMR.
Kevin Jackson, Director of Development at Versus, says, “We standardized on one complete Microsoft technology stack—database, development environment, and operating system—because Microsoft brings not only a breadth of technology but also a huge support structure, including the Microsoft Developer Network and an ‘ecosystem’ of IT partner resources. This makes our application development process easier.”
PacMed deployed the RTLS solution in April 2010 and expects to expand deployment to its other clinics as they are remodeled.
By using the Versus Advantages™ solution built on core Microsoft technologies, PacMed gains the following benefits:
When patients check in at the Canyon Park clinic, they are given an IR/RFID clip-on badge and are then assigned an exam room, similar to what they might experience at a hotel. Patients then guide themselves back to their room. The Versus system alerts appropriate staff, who see the patient’s identity, status, and location on the screen. Eremic says, “With the RTLS, everyone knows where everyone else is and where all the tagged assets are. The result is an efficient flow of people, and a surprisingly quiet clinic.”
“With our RTLS solution, we’ve shrunk the average patient visit time from 70 to 46 minutes,” adds Daniel. “And as an added safety benefit, if a patient is later found to have a contagious illness, RTLS reports can identify everyone the person had contact with at the clinic.”
Patients appreciate not only the shorter waiting time but also other operational efficiencies that the RTLS brings. For example, when patients call the clinic and need to speak to a specific employee, call center operators can immediately locate the extension closest to that employee and forward the call there. The shorter visits and quick telephone responses have resulted in 85 percent of patients reporting an excellent overall experience.
Because of the efficient use of space and design that RTLS made possible, projected patient volumes, services, and revenue all increased significantly. Daniel says, “The Versus real-time locating solution helped us design our clinic to increase patient flow by 35 to 40 percent and double net revenue projections.”
Specifically, by designing the clinic with a smaller waiting area and narrower hallways, it can accommodate more exam rooms and services, like an onsite endoscopy suite. However, Daniel says, “Without the RTLS and its automated patient flows, we wouldn’t have been able to use our exam rooms so efficiently and add several revenue-generating resources.” The automation also allowed the clinic to hire fewer staff, including 50 percent fewer registered nurses, to handle the high patient volume.
Daniel concludes, “To survive in today’s fee-for-service healthcare world, we have to see more patients, deliver higher quality and safer care, and improve customer service. Thanks to the RTLS, our clinic has become a model for how to do all of this really well.”
Pacific Medical Centers is a private not-for-profit, multi-specialty health-care network of 10 locations with 140 primary and specialty care providers. Its 10 locations are in Puget Sound neighborhoods in Beacon Hill, Bothell, downtown Seattle , Northgate, Federal Way , First Hill, Lynnwood , Northgate, Renton and TotemLake . Pacific Medical Centers serves patients with commercial insurance, retired military and their families, family members of active-duty personnel, as well as the underserved in our community.