More Efficient Office Visits for Better RA Patient Experiences

These days it’s all about the patient. Patients want to be more engaged in their own care, and health care providers, insurers and companies want that too. More engaged patients usually have better health outcomes.

Patients are at the center of what I do even though my role at Crescendo mainly involves working with physician practices to help make their processes and workflows more efficient. You might wonder how my work benefits patients, but it’s the end result of all I do!

A typical day for me involves observing how a rheumatologist’s office functions and pinpointing things that can get in the way of fruitful patient-doctor discussions. For each practice we visit, my colleagues and I come up with customized suggestions to streamline processes and manage workflow with an eye toward better results for patients.

One of our most impactful suggestions has to do with the timing of lab tests for patients already diagnosed with RA. We recommend that offices schedule pre-visits, in advance of the patient’s appointment, to take labs and other tests the patient needs to be done, such as the Vectra, ultrasounds or the RAPID3. The office staff can also use the pre-visit time to answer initial questions and provide educational materials.

The biggest and most important benefit of the pre-visit is that it equips the doctor and patient with actionable information. They are empowered to make treatment decisions based on real information, instead of making a tentative plan that requires confirmation after the lab results come back, as they may have done in the past.

There are other benefits, too:

· Having the Vectra score in advance of the appointment provides a more global view of what’s driving a patient’s symptoms. Sometimes patients experience symptoms that seem related to RA, but if the disease activity score is low, doctors may look into other possible reasons. Conversely, if a patient feels great, but the disease activity score is high, the physician may consider re-evaluating the treatment plan.

· Having labs in advance can help office staff schedule patients according to need, rather than at pre-set regular intervals. For example, a patient who has been doing really well may be able to wait a little longer before his or her next appointment, which most patients appreciate! At the same time, it frees the doctor’s schedule for patients who need to come in more frequently and keeps the waiting room a little less crowded.

Another common recommendation we make is to have office staff conduct a “chart check” before the patient’s appointment to make sure that all of the tests are together and easily accessible in the patient’s medical record. This helps the doctor focus on the patient conversation and eliminates the distraction of tracking down missing items.

We know that patients are more engaged when the appointment is centered around them. One patient shared, “I like having the numbers to talk about with my doctor when I show up at my appointment. She can talk with me about everything right then and there.”

Georgia Bonney, Practice Manager at Virginia Rheumatology Clinic said, “The patients really enjoy having their results available to them at their appointment, and the physician feels that she is better able to educate the patient and focus on managing their disease. As an added bonus, the staff has been able to greatly reduce time engaging in phone calls about results. Overall, it has allowed us to direct patient care in a more meaningful way within our practice.”

Keeping patients at the center is part of our Crescendo culture. I’m proud to play a role in helping patients be more engaged in their care, with a goal of better outcomes for them!

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