How Technology is Redefining Outpatient Care

Scott Mace, May 19, 2015

Advances in telemedicine are redefining who is deciding to form outpatient clinics and how they should run. "If you don't have a virtual model of practice somewhere within a practice, then you're behind the times," says one virtual practice owner.

Forget patients checking in at the receptionists' desk. Maybe forget waiting rooms. Forget brick-and-mortar clinics. Forget leaving home to get to them.

Technology is redefining what it makes to be an outpatient clinic. It's also redefining the requirements to start one. And those things are redefining who is deciding to form clinics, and how they should run, if the old ways of running them are not as friendly as possible to the clientele—or the workforce.

Over the past few months, I've been reminded of this again and again. Before he left to head up Geisinger, UCLA Health psychiatrist-turned-CEO David T. Feinberg, MD, speaking at the twice-annual Vocera Patient Experience Summit last fall, described how the organization went from a patient satisfaction rating of 38% to 99% on survey questions such as, would patients refer UCLA Health to a friend?

Feinberg said that UCLA is "the only academic medical center with kindness in its purpose statement" as described in the 2011 book "Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience From UCLA Health System" by Joseph Michelli.


David T. Feinberg, MD

But Feinberg said healthcare has a long way to go with patient experience. "They wrote books about us to say we're 99th percentile, and as I tell my team, I think that means we're the cream of the crap." It still means "out of the last 100 people we've taken care of, we've failed 15."

Greater Access; Less Waiting
So Feinberg pushed for improvements. Realizing that even the California Department of Motor Vehicles allows online appointment scheduling, Feinberg resolved to improve the appointment system at UCLA Health. "We now offer same-day access for 27 specialties," Feinberg said. "We now answer the phone at UCLA, 'Hello, this is UCLA Health. Would you like to be seen today?'"

The system also opened more clinics in its Los Angeles service area, such that no patient would have to drive more than four miles for primary care "because if it's six miles, it could be a 30-minute drive, depending on traffic." At present, UCLA Health has four hospitals and 150 clinics.

Scott Mace

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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