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November 8, 2023
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3 min read

3 strategies Cerner EHR-based organizations are using to improve patient access to healthcare

Discover how healthcare organizations running the Cerner EHR are enhancing patient access to healthcare with three innovative strategies.

Trevor Jonas
3 strategies Cerner EHR-based organizations are using to improve patient access to healthcare

The doors of healthcare, while always open, can often seem guarded by a complex maze of administrative barriers. From scheduling hiccups to miscommunication about available slots, patients sometimes find it easier to delay care than to navigate these complexities. Notable original research found that 61% of patients avoided medical care altogether because scheduling was a hassle. 

But the consequences of such delays can be grave. Patient satisfaction plummets when access to healthcare is restricted. Operational efficiency takes a hit, with staff forced to spend valuable time on administrative tasks rather than on patient care. From a revenue perspective, each missed appointment or delayed procedure translates to lost revenue, impacting financial health. 

For healthcare organizations that use Cerner’s electronic health record (EHR), identifying a clear path to improve access to healthcare can be daunting. In this article, we explore three strategies that organizations using the Cerner EHR have implemented to successfully improve patient access to healthcare.

Strategy #1: Use technology to empower patients to reduce administrative work for staff

Workforce challenges in healthcare are well documented. Rather than focus on open requisitions, leading organizations are using technology to engage another group to tackle some of healthcare’s most administrative workflows. That group is a healthcare organization’s patients.

We’ve all been there. We walk into a clinic, stand in line at the front desk to check in, and once at the front of the line, we’re handed a clipboard full of forms to fill out, despite this not being our first visit. Once filled out, the forms have to be double-checked by staff and transcribed into the Cerner EHR. 

Instead, leading healthcare organizations have deployed digital intake and digital registration, which empower patients to complete pre-visit forms and relevant information on their own time, before ever stepping foot in a clinic. The information collected digitally is automatically captured and written into the correct fields within Cerner EHR, without staff intervention. For example, Cerner EHR-based Intermountain Health reimagined patient registration and intake, deploying a digital solution in just four weeks that reduced check-in times by 25%, saw 68% of patients complete the pre-visit registration and intake, and drove a 96% patient satisfaction rating. 

The same goes for patient scheduling. At its core, moving from phone-based to digital scheduling is about empowerment. It gives every patient the autonomy to schedule care on their terms, at their convenience. No phone calls, no back-and-forths–just a streamlined, user-friendly interface that integrates seamlessly with Cerner EHR. 

Cerner-based North Kansas City Hospital (NKCH) and Meritas Health (MH) deployed Notable Scheduling to allow patients to schedule appointments based on their desire for care or guidance from a provider, eliminating the need for phone calls. Within the first six weeks of going live, scheduled appointments for the same number of available providers jumped from 5.7% to 14%, with an average of more than 400 online appointments booked per week. 

“We now have online scheduling 24 hours a day,” said Dr. Stephen Reintjes, CEO of North Kansas City Hospital & Meritas Health. “I love seeing the people that schedule their appointments at two and three and four o'clock in the morning. And people think, well, that's the night owls. No, it's somebody who wakes up in the middle of the night with a sick kid who doesn't want to have to go to the ER or pay that high cost of the ER. Or it's somebody that wakes up with a belly ache or shortness of breath and says, well, I can make it to the morning.”

Ultimately, patients, whether tech-savvy millennials or older individuals seeking ease, find solace in a system that respects their time and is tailored to their needs.

Strategy #2: Automate wherever possible and engage patients with proactive, personalized outreach

By most estimates, more than 80% of all healthcare data is unstructured, meaning it is not stored in a specific format. Historically, this has meant that locating, analyzing, and synthesizing this data took a lot of work, and doing so across an entire organization was virtually impossible. However, with large language models, it is now possible to use AI to continuously review millions of data points across medical records and third-party data sets to develop a comprehensive clinical and social understanding of each patient. From there, personalized recommendations can be automatically surfaced to the patient before, after, and between encounters.

“We are transforming how we engage patients through highly personalized care experiences,” said Dave Henricksen, Vice President of Clinical Operations at Cerner-based Castell. “We have extended the capacity of our current workforce and equipped them with actionable insights to keep patients healthy. With Notable, we activate our patients at the right moment – without placing undue burden on our caregivers or adding more staff.”

Castell currently has 1.2 million lives under management across six states and with Notable, automated the work of over 25 FTEs within the first year of partnership, saving an estimated $2.8M. Additionally, Castell is using this automation to improve patient care dramatically, with more than 1,700 care management intake forms completed to date in 2023 and an estimated 35 minutes saved per patient. Castell also leverages automation from Notable to increase care gap closure and expedite payer care gap attestation, ultimately ensuring that patients get the critical care they need.

Strategy #3: Integrate conversational AI with the Cerner EHR to provide concierge-level experiences for every patient

Conversational AI is not just a tool, it’s a bridge that connects patients to healthcare systems 24/7, answering queries, scheduling appointments, and providing follow-ups using natural language without human intervention. Gone are the days of waiting on hold to speak to a contact center agent, trying to get answers to basic questions during restrictive office hours, or frustrating interactions with traditional chatbots. With conversational AI, patients have a round-the-clock companion ready to assist, inform, and guide them on their care journey.

For Cerner EHR-based healthcare organizations, the integration of conversational AI offers a myriad of advantages, not the least of which is ensuring that virtual assistants are equipped with accurate, real-time patient data, making every interaction highly personalized and informed. One example is Notable Assistant, which directly integrates with the Cerner EHR and empowers patients to navigate services, find providers, schedule care, and make payments through a conversational AI interface.

“With Notable Assistant, we can create a personalized, responsive healthcare journey for each of our patients,” said Kristen Guillaume, VP and Chief Information Officer at North Kansas City Hospital and Meritas Health.

Ready to empower your patients by building automated patient access workflows on top of Cerner? Get started by exploring Notable on the Cerner Open Developer Experience App Gallery.

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