Strategies to Improve Patient Access: A Profile of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist

Posted By: Katharine McQueen Industry,

The role of the patient access call center has evolved over the years from a more linear, transactional piece of health care to a now more robust and increasingly valuable part of a health system's approach to optimizing patient access. Tukesha Parks, Director of Ambulatory Access, and Jennifer Hayden, AVP Patient Access, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist discussed their access journey and the patterns they have observed with their call center since 2012. Their journey exhibits strategies they have employed and multiple "upgrades" through leadership and staff training to enhance visibility, develop accountability and create greater efficiency.

Parks addressed three "foundational components" that drive the outcome of a patient's experience, including a dedicated staff, a training culture, and measuring success through KPIs (metric reporting and scorecards). Parks relayed, "With a dedicated IAS support in place and a technology roadmap, common issues and understanding where the gaps existed became more visible." For example, cleaning up the work queues, closing the call loop process, and introducing reporting dashboards to track referrals and turnaround times are key areas they have continuously monitored to develop improved patient and provider satisfaction. From 2018-2020, a series of training opportunities for front-line staff leaders were rolled out, as did the "WQ Monitoring Tableau Dashboard" to assist managers with tracking referrals.

Most important to their team's success is creating visibility to identify needs. Parks discussed how much of the work from 2012-2017, "looked like unfinished work in progress" as items in the WQ were stuck in the system and orders were not appropriately routed.

To ensure IAS solutions supported operational needs, Parks and Hayden established a Work Queue Governance Committee in 2020. Additional strategies, like a two-business day expectation to book and coordinate appointments, shortening visits to create new patient flow, utilizing an outbound dialer system, and follow-up letters became important "upgrades" to a lagging referral management system. Hayden marveled over the outcome numbers and improved patient access with new patient volume increases of 13% in 2021 over 2019 and a 16% increase in 2022 over 2019.

Improving patient access has been a multi-year journey for the access team at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. Next up on the access roadmap is an enterprise model and governance structure for the future of call center operations in support of the Atrium Health strategic plan, "Impact 2025." Hayden stated this Enterprise Contact Center consists of a strategic framework that focuses on the "people, processes, and the technology that support partnerships, with a goal to harmonize operations and drive overall access to care to the communities served." As Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist has grown to be a part of a much larger multi-region health system, a Governance Structure will aid in aligning decision-making, strategic investment in technology, and drive overall accountability to improve access to care in an efficient and consumer-friendly way.