When life-sustaining care hinges on an efficient referral process, you need to have the right healthcare information technology in place.
One of the nation’s premier providers of dialysis services operates an enterprise of 2,500 clinics. While their dialysis services are respected, their referral process often received criticism from the hospital case managers who sent patients to them.
The process was largely fax-based and the case managers felt it was slow, unresponsive, prone to mistakes, and lacked transparency. This created issues not just for the case managers and their patients, but the dialysis provider as well. It impacted their reputation in professional circles and, more importantly, encouraged the case managers to send patients to other providers.
It was time to update their referral admissions process with modern healthcare information technology and an online patient portal. With their internal developers overextended and, having recently worked with Celerity on a highly successful transformation of their scheduling capabilities, they turned to us again to create a web-based healthcare portal that would:
- Streamline and improve the admissions process
- Increase the speed at which referrals are processed
- Strengthen communications between case managers and admissions
- Give case managers more insight into the status of their referrals
- Rebuild the confidence case managers had in the dialysis organization
- Capture more referrals in the future
Designing a new healthcare information technology approach, tailored to disparate users
The development began with a discovery phase that included interviews with hospital case managers, the client’s internal IT team, their admissions team and other employees involved in the process. This gave Celerity a deep understanding of the capabilities needed on all sides of the equation, the challenges everyone was currently facing, and how a digital approach could serve them all better. During this time the team established the UX and visual design of the online patient portal and planned out subsequent phases.
The plan included developing the healthcare portal in conjunction with the client’s IT team. Celerity would provide front-end code and the client’s team would help design and administer the database and back-end systems. Celerity uses Agile frameworks and the client’s team uses a waterfall approach, so we developed a hybrid Agile-waterfall approach with monthly releases that served both teams well.
Several rounds of development followed over the next eight months. Midway through the process the client’s product owner left the company and the new product owner shifted priorities and requested additional capabilities. This added more time to the process and, after a year of development, the pilots began—first with five hospitals, then with 10, then with a nationwide launch.
Transforming the way the patient referral process gets done
The online patient portal was launched nationwide in April 2019 to 1300 hospitals/providers. The following month saw referrals submitted through the portal more than double and that number has increased rapidly ever since. By summer 2019, there were 3500 users and the user base was expanding daily. More importantly, customers like using the new portal and both the client and hospital case managers feel their new healthcare information technology is achieving its goals of simplifying processes and tracking progress of referrals. This is especially good news because it means the dialysis provider is demonstrating enhanced value to case managers and their patients, which will translate to more referrals.
The client is so pleased with the new healthcare portal that they plan to deploy it to at least 2000 providers. Celerity meets regularly with end-users and salespeople to gather feedback, and also with admissions to find ways of making the process smoother and error-free. Iterations are continuing with the portal and, due to the positive reception of the online patient portal, Celerity is continuing to make improvements to the portal based on interviews with end users and key stakeholders.
Fax-based patient referral process
No visibility into progress on patient referrals
Slow admissions process
Zero referral providers using online referrals
Online referral portal full of features
Easy access and greater transparency
Fast, automated admissions process
1300 providers using portal, scaling to 2000 in future