Hyndman Area Health Center – a Pennsylvania health center that provides family medicine, dental health, wellness and more – has moved from client-based servers to eClinicalWorks cloud servers to expand its network and meet data demand.
Since then, it has seen a more than 150% increase in patients and has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past few years as it no longer relies on physical servers.
Healthcare IT News sat down with Bill Kurtycz, CEO of Hyndman Area Health Center, to discuss cloud technology, cloud EHRs and telehealth, and how technologies can benefit the provider.
Q. Hyndman Area Health Center offers, among other things, family medicine, dental health, pediatrics and women’s health. Please talk about the problems you faced before telehealth and how telemedicine helped to overcome them.
A. Like many medical practices, we turned to telehealth during the pandemic. With so much uncertainty, one thing remained constant – our patients needed care. But we didn’t know how to treat new patients, if they came into our facility, or how to follow up with existing patients.
Many practices in our area closed their doors and stopped providing care to our community. So we felt that we are very forced to find a solution to the problem and provide care, even though it may not be in front of us in our place.
Our electronic records vendor, eClinicalWorks, introduced us to medical services we didn’t realize we had access to. This combined with our existing IT infrastructure – including EHR, scheduling and more – makes it an easy addition to our workflow.
We started by offering telehealth for our primary care services. We found that our patients got used to the new look and appreciated the opportunity to receive treatment from their homes. We also added telehealth for patients receiving medication and real-time counseling.
Additionally, as a hospital, we treat many patients with health-related issues. Telehealth reduces the burden on our patients, such as transportation, allowing us to provide quality care to our community.
We continue to use telehealth in our daily operations. After the outbreak subsided and we opened our physical office, providers still have the right to take some time from home. For example, if an assistant has COVID-19 but has mild symptoms, they may not be able to come into the office but may still be well enough to work.
With telehealth, this provider can meet with patients via telehealth, reducing the need to reschedule appointments or offload patients to another provider. We’ve seen the benefits of telehealth for our patients and providers, so we’re trying to spread awareness about this method and expand the number of telehealth users.
Q. You are using eClinicalWorks Cloud EHR – powered by Microsoft Azure, which eClinicalWorks recently raised $100 million in – to help streamline surgeries and provide better patient care. How does your work with an EHR vendor support this?
A. During the COVID era, our patient population increased by 400%. We saw our IT capacity shrink, as our on-premises servers could not handle the volume of data.
We were using three servers at the time, and we needed three times as much just to run the current workload. This would have cost us tens of thousands of dollars over several years – which was not sustainable from a business or financial perspective. We needed a solution that would support our growth, without adding an expensive server every time we had patients.
We completed a five-year financial analysis of the expected continuation of internal servers compared to moving to the cloud. ROI tends to move to the cloud. Our EHR vendor initiated this process and optimized our existing infrastructure and determined that their cloud solution would meet our needs and prepare for future growth.
They did a SWOT analysis to find our pain points and areas for optimization. As a federally qualified health center (FQHC), we have limited funding, and we had limited infrastructure planning.
Our broker works with many FQHCs and understands the situation. They provided a plan that addressed our key pain points and put us on the path to increasing our ROI while improving provider satisfaction and clinical care.
We could not have made this transition without our trusted EHR vendor. With a dedicated team, they identify problem areas and provide appropriate solutions. Also, our vendor takes care of our IT and service needs, some work we can now offload from our internal teams.
By partnering with our EHR vendors to transition to the cloud, our providers and staff can focus on what matters most – caring for our patients. We can sleep well at night, not having to worry about disaster management, HVAC or security – issues related to physical servers that disappear as soon as you move to the cloud.
Q. How have you achieved success and well-being?
A. What we’ve learned from this process is the importance of working with your vendor to research and determine your best fit. If we hadn’t asked for help from an EHR vendor, we would have poured all our money into servers instead of putting in place a long-term plan that would benefit patients and providers.
By working with a vendor, we now have the tools and resources we need to provide the best care to our community.
Our IT infrastructure is more efficient than ever. With the cloud, we’ve cut our IT bill in half and our team is experiencing faster, more secure data transfer and storage. The cloud provides zonal and regional real-time, so our systems and patient data remain accessible and secure no matter what.
Before going through the transition process, we were concerned about not being able to manage patient data in the cloud. But we have learned that this is not the case. The cloud keeps all of our data safe, regardless of the environment. When one server goes down, there is another one to store our data.
Between the speed of the Internet, the increase in security and the flexibility of growth as our practice grows, we now feel that we have the confidence to be able to provide care to our patients. Our clients are also showing great satisfaction, as they now spend less time waiting for data or the network.
This efficiency also means good care. Patients experience better managed care now that we are managing our data in the cloud. Providers can access all of their data using search tools and search data from our EHR vendors for accurate care. We recommend it to any practice struggling to meet demand or looking to scale up to see the cloud. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve made in our career.
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