The city of Omaha, Nebraska sprouts up abruptly from the expansive corn fields of the Great Plains. Perhaps best known for steaks and tycoons, this is a town where no-nonsense frontier roots meet modern innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Midwest Regional Health Services has provided the Omaha community with high-quality internal and family medicine services since 2002. An early pioneer of the patient-centered medical home model, the organization has grown to include over a dozen providers servicing tens of thousands of patients at multiple locations.
Always exploring new ways to improve the patient experience, MRHS implemented Hale’s remote care platform in their successful launch of their modern, mobile-friendly telemedicine service—improving patient access and expanding the organization’s reach beyond the four walls of the clinic.
As the first clinic in Nebraska to be recognized as an NCQA Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home, the MRHS team has always been deeply committed to fostering strong patient relationships that translate into high-quality care.
The practice historically offered expanded access to care — by providing a patient portal and centralizing their patient coordination — but were looking for efficient ways to introduce remote care into their workflows. Changing patient expectations and new requirements for PCMH designation made telemedicine a key priority for the organization.
The clinic established a selection committee to lead the effort. The team sought to figure out how potential vendors would go beyond simply checking the boxes regarding requirements, and instead reimagined what the future of care could look like for MRHS and its patients. What was the best possible experience—and how would that align with the organization’s broader goals?
“We needed a flexible product that would deliver a great patient experience — but also scale as we expanded telemedicine in our practice. An unsophisticated video visit widget wasn’t going to be sufficient.”
After researching various offerings, the committee determined that the Hale platform represented the best fit for their vision. They made a decision to move forward with Hale and set an aggressive internal deadline for an organization-wide implementation and launch in four weeks.
While their selection of a flexible, cloud-based platform offered the opportunity for a quick implementation, MRHS worked diligently to educate patients and providers to drive adoption and engagement. The following best practices are drawn from their experience:
Setting a firm date was an important catalyst as the clinic prepared for roll-out and signaled a real commitment to the program. Without truly putting energy and resources behind implementation, it’s easy for organizations to struggle to gather momentum—leaving new programs to languish, lack data for evaluation or get stuck in permanent ‘trial’ mode.
The team spent time really using the product and testing out workflows, developing a deep understanding of the experience for both patients and providers. This helped to hone patient marketing messages, get ahead of clinical team questions and identify opportunities for customization to enhance the experience.
The MRHS team took their understanding of the product experience and documented the workflows they wanted to support. Clarity around specific roles and responsibilities (e.g. Who is on point to receive new requests? What specific steps will providers need to take versus in-office appointments?) helped to prepare the entire team for a smooth launch.
Just as important as patient recruitment, MRHS understood the need to get true buy-in from the clinical team that would be using the platform every day. Taking time in staff meetings to present the product and talk through the workflow helped eventual users understand how the new technology would fit into their daily toolset.
Beginning weeks before the launch, MRHS started marketing the new service to patients. Bulletins were posted in the clinic and brochures made available in exam rooms for providers to promote. Online, MRHS placed announcements on their website and social media pages. All of the patient messaging also helped to drive provider buy-in — ensuring the entire clinical team was aware, ready and anticipating the launch.
“Clarity is key — both internally and externally. We invested the time to consider workflows and user experience, then made sure everything was well-communicated in staff training and patient marketing alike.”
On the day of the launch, staff sent personalized email invitations to patients with just one click. Within hours the team was already hearing positive feedback from patients who had activated their accounts.
In the months that followed the launch, MRHS has seen the number of patients on the platform grow into the thousands — with adoption across all of the various patient populations they have invited to participate.
The practice’s Clinical Support Team – responsible for managing incoming and outgoing communication with patients – has been at the helm of the expansion, continuing ongoing marketing efforts and directing patients to Hale whenever possible to receive convenient access to the clinic.
While the team initially assumed live video visits would be the primary use case for the system, they have seen patients and providers leverage a broad set of functionality to streamline care. In addition to video visits scheduled for follow-up care, Hale’s asynchronous tools allow clinical staff to quickly triage new patient requests, provide administrative support — or simply manage patients towards necessary office visits when appropriate.
“The system’s flexibility is its secret sauce. Our team now has even greater of control over how we can manage the flow of patient requests — and more options for how we can provide the care they need.”
Patient response has been overwhelmingly positive, with individual stories demonstrating how a virtual connection has led to care that wasn’t possible before. Patients who have moved far from the area have been able to maintain a relationship with their MRHS providers; an untimely medical issue was resolved to save a bride’s wedding day; patients managing chronic diseases have been able to reduce their time off work while ensuring they are getting the follow-up care they need.
Now, given the program’s success with patients and providers alike, MRHS leadership has again turned to thinking about the future: exploring ways to launch new patient programs — such as dedicated, on-demand after hours care—exclusively through the platform.
On the other side of a successful implementation, MRHS reflects on a few lessons they’ve learned as usage has grown that might help others considering remote care programs of their own:
Satisfy patient needs—before others do. Patients are seeking convenient care options, through tools they already use to manage the rest of their lives. With easy-to-implement tools like Hale, there’s no reason not to let them have the experience they seek with the providers they already know and trust.
Use new tools alongside existing ones. Remote care is a new channel to manage your patient relationships—but one of many tools including the phone, office visits and other clinical systems. While tools may have overlap in their use, that’s okay: a focus on expanding access and driving engagement will inevitably benefit your practice and the care you can deliver.
Stay flexible. Understand that some members of the clinical team may become ‘power users’ of a new platform, while others may only be comfortable starting with specific workflows. Select tools that are flexible and can satisfy a range of use cases, while guiding your entire staff get value from the platform in a way that makes sense for them.
Avoid analysis paralysis. Today’s cloud-based tools offer efficient timelines and implementation costs that reduce risk for organizations looking to implement, test and scale new solutions. Do your research and invest in preparing for success—but there’s no time like the present to get started.
Hale connects clinical teams and their patients between office visits through live video visits, secure messaging, and more. Get started at www.hale.co