athenahealth to Reduce Administrative Burden & Improve Productivity

Product innovation and momentum fueled by voice of the customer drives measurable results and satisfaction

athenahealth, Inc., a leading provider of network-enabled software and services for medical groups and health systems nationwide, today shared key enhancements it has made in 2021 to athenaOne®, its suite of electronic health record (EHR), medical billing, and patient engagement solutions. More than 50% of the new features and enhancements stem directly from athenahealth’s award-winning voice of the customer program, producing innovative product improvements that deliver increasing value to the healthcare ecosystem.

Customer feedback and results show that the features released during 2021, which total 232% more than 2019, are improving the clinician, staff, and patient experience while enabling value-based care success and optimizing financial performance.

As a cloud-based provider, athenahealth continuously develops new functionality and new products, and automatically enables them for customers three times per year. This ensures that customers can keep up with industry change – without burdensome upgrades – and seamlessly scale their technology to support their organization’s growth.

“Across the healthcare ecosystem, we work diligently to assimilate customer feedback and dramatically increase the velocity with which we use our R&D investments to improve customer experience and satisfaction,” said Paul Brient, chief product officer for athenahealth. “This is part of our strategic journey: to give physicians and their staff the tools they need to improve productivity, better support patients, and achieve success with value-based care models focused on patient outcomes. And beneath it all is our open, connected network that allows information to flow across the healthcare ecosystem – a critical component in helping to create efficiencies for physicians and healthier futures for all.”

Tailorable Clinical Workflows Support Distinct Provider Needs, Improve Efficiency

Over the past year, athenahealth has enhanced its EHR solution to better adapt to individual provider needs, helping them document more efficiently and improve care quality. As such, among myriad features and updates released in 2021, some of the most meaningful enhancements are focused on user customization, including:

  • Focused encounters: This enhancement enables users to configure an encounter to a simple, one-page view with only the essential fields for a specific encounter type and removes unnecessary steps for clinicians to conduct quick, lower-complexity visits. Based on athenaOne data from 50,000 encounters closed across customers in the alpha phase, this enhancement resulted in a 6% reduction in documentation time, and users reported a 67% increase in satisfaction when rating their ability to document a brief patient visit.
  • Intake workflow enhancements: A configurable intake checklist and the ability to access historical patient data during intake enables practice administrators and clinical staff to accelerate documentation time, decrease room for error, and reduce training time for new staff.
  • New social history experience: To significantly reduce scrolling, athenahealth has implemented a new documentation workflow that is intuitive and streamlined, as well as a new administrator experience to simplify the configuration of social history questions, so that only relevant questions display.

“The pandemic has created the biggest workload burden for my nursing and clinical support staff ever,” said Jill Fields, director of clinical quality for Cabin Creek Health Systems, a Federally Qualified Health Center in West Virginia. “Yet they are not spending nearly as much time documenting as they had been prior to using the new focused encounter workflow. This frees them up for more patient care, which is phenomenal.”

Improving Office Staff Workflows Reduces Administrative Burden, Delivers Better Payment Outcomes

To help reduce revenue cycle management (RCM) office staff workload and speed RCM operations, athenahealth also made numerous enhancements to its healthcare payment product. Some notable updates include:

  • Flexible bad-debt management: Billers and practice managers are now able to determine when patient accounts receivables are converted to bad debt, thereby increasing the potential for better payment outcomes while considerably reducing unnecessary and repeated bad-debt work. Based on athenaOne data from more than 600 customers who alpha tested this feature, practices saw greater than an 80% reduction in customer work and voids.
  • Surfacing bad debt: In addition, at the patient’s time of service (TOS), front-desk users can now easily see bad-debt amounts, including details of each claim or charge associated with the balance, so they can engage with the patient during their visit to increase the probability of collecting the balance due. Alleviating manual and repetitive work of voiding and applying the payments enabled early adopters to realize a 78% decrease in work and a nearly 15-times increase in collection rates for written-off balances at TOS, according to athenaOne data.
  • Extended revenue cycle services: athenahealth launched a suite of enhanced revenue cycle services that wick away a significant amount of administrative burden from providers and staff, giving organizations the freedom to drive efficiency and scale, and focus on higher value work. The suite of services seamlessly integrates with daily workflow and includes fast accurate medical coding, authorization management, and complex claims and denial resolution.

Providing a Consumer-Grade Experience Empowers Patients, Drives Value for Providers

To modernize the healthcare experience and empower patients to engage in their health and wellness, athenahealth has released a significant number of feature enhancements to its patient-facing applications, including:

  • Two-way SMS appointment reminders:With bi-directional messaging for appointment reminders, patients can confirm, cancel, or reschedule via text, without needing to switch communication channels.
  • Enhanced online patient payment experience: athenahealth has reimagined its patient payment workflows across desktop and mobile devices into a more modern and intuitive frontend. It has also integrated its highly utilized online patient payment app onto to drive ease of use and patient confidence. This empowers patients to easily make payments, decreases work for the practice, and improves patient pay yield. Practices set up for digital patient payments have approximately 13% higher patient pay yield compared to practices not set up for digital patient payments.i
  • athenaTelehealth enhancements:Providers and patients will now encounter an enhanced waiting room customized with the practice’s branding so that patients are assured they’re joining a telehealth visit with their expected practice and provider. In addition, with expanded communication capabilities, care team members and patients can send each other messages about timing or status of the visit, ensuring one another of their presence.
  • Patient self-scheduling: Practices can now offer appointment booking functionality to patients via web, email, social, or search, as well as in the patient portal. The always-on, convenient access to appointments helps practices expand patient access to care, ensure greater schedule density, and acquire and retain more patients while reducing staff time and call volume for scheduling appointments.

After implementing patient self-scheduling, Seth Davis, practice manager for Pediatric Physicians PC, a 10-provider practice with two locations in Atlanta, commented: “The biggest benefit for us is how much our patients who use it just love it and continue to use it. It means fewer calls for us first thing in the morning and has helped keep our early morning appointments continuously filled. Further, it has helped us reduce no-shows for sick visits by four times and has increased patient retention for our practice.”

Delivering Workflows that Achieve Exceptional Quality Outcomes and Meet Regulatory Compliance

Value-based reimbursement demands that providers meet certain quality thresholds, while containing costs, to get paid. Because this requires deep insight into quality performance, athenahealth has released several enhancements to its value-based care workflows, such as:

  • Flexible quality reporting periods: Now, practices can choose whether to report on the full year of data or any of the four individual quarters for the MIPS Promoting Interoperability (PI) category, and they are able to track their quarterly PI data in athenahealth’s MIPS dashboard. During the initial pilot, the administrative task completion rate for the 90-day program was approximately 60% higher than that of the full-year option based on athenaOne data.
  • Automatic attestation of specific MIPS measures: Adding the capability to auto-attest for the HIE bi-directional exchange measure has increased satisfaction of the measure by 86% and enabled 12.3% of providers to qualify for exceptional performance, unlocking an additional pool of $500 million in bonus payments as compared to before the feature was released, according to athenaOne data.
  • Automatic quality enrollment optimization: athenahealth has begun applying insights from its nationwide network to identify the optimal set of quality measures, including top-performing measures and those that would maximize bonus potential, for all MIPS-eligible customers.
  • Continuous quality performance comparisons: Harnessing the power of athenahealth’s nationwide network of approximately 145,000 providers on athenaOne, customers are now able to view their MIPS program performance in relation to their MIPS peers – right in the MIPS dashboard. This transparency provides practices with unique insight into quality performance and outcomes, so practices can discover actions they can take to improve.

Rapid, Free, Self-Service Data Conversion Enables Seamless Provider Onboarding

With data conversion being identified as one of the biggest barriers when practices switch EHRs, athenahealth has created the ability for practices to import Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (CCDA) documents in bulk from their legacy EHR to athenaOne. Now, providers can easily import their structured clinical data and CCDA documents and start using athenaOne more quickly, without having to spend funds on a third-party solution to migrate data.

“Our award-winning technology ecosystem, powered through athenahealth as our enterprise EHR, is a differentiator for physicians joining Millennium,” said Jeffrey Nelson, chief innovation officer, Millennium Physician Group. “Our partnership in co-creating the CCDA Import Service with athenahealth helped us successfully grow our physician base by 40% in 2021. This allows us to give our new physicians the data they need in the new patient charts from day one and alleviates the long data migration processes from other EHRs.”

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