Scott Segerstrom – Christie Clinic
In today’s corporate healthcare environment, there is usually a hierarchy between the doctors and the management, but in the case of Christie Clinic your doctor also happens to own the place.
Christie Clinic is a physician-owned medical practice with 17 locations in east-central Illinois. The clinics provide primary care services as well as a multitude of specialties, everything from allergy control and health education to general surgery and cardiology.
“We treat patients for the long haul, and since [the doctors] own the business, it’s very much a customer centric focus,” says Director of Information Services Scott Segerstrom.
This is the way Christie Clinic has operated since it was founded in 1929, but recently, technology has played a much larger role in keeping the organization independent. Since Segerstrom joined the clinic in 2013, he and his team have helped convert to a new electronic records system and even roll out a new method for monitoring patients with high blood pressure and hypertension.
Value over volume
Many of these projects are driven by a shift in how the federal government regulates healthcare.
In the past, most hospitals and healthcare organizations received insurance money or federal support based on the number of patients they saw. This is known as volume-based or volume-driven care.
“Today, [the federal government] is shifting to a value-based proposition, where these same clinics have to demonstrate that they are providing proper care and value to patients and not ordering panels of tests just because they can,” Segerstrom says.
Among the new requirements for federal funding, healthcare entities must prove they are using technology to streamline services.
For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Incentive Programs is only available to healthcare organizations and professionals that prove they are demonstrating “meaningful use,” which refers to the use of certified electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) software to improve the efficiency and efficacy of care.
Segerstrom says Christie Clinic is working hard to stay current with these shifting expectations, working closely with vendors such as DNDC Telephone Company, which since 2004, has provided telephone and other communication services.
DNDC CEO John Calderon has watched Christie Clinic grow from eight to 22 locations, installing in that time more than 1,400 telephones. (It’s in the process of adding 250 more.)
“We have this amazing relationship with Christie Clinic, because we’re not only a partner in their organization, all of our doctors for our families are there,” Calderon says.
In April 2013, the clinic also installed a new EMR system, which tracks patients’ medical history, financial records and runs the patient portal.
“If you think back to the days when doctors were looking at paper charts, we have essentially taken all of that paper and made it accessible anywhere and to multiple people at the same time,” Segerstrom says.
The patient portal is designed to encourage patients to be proactive and engaged with their healthcare by allowing them to access it from any mobile device. “It’s so convenient because now people can see their clinical information at an emergency room or even on vacation,” Segerstrom says.
The EMR software is also continually being updated with new applications, such as a recent app that allows expectant mothers to track their pregnancy from their smart phones.
“It is exciting that our vendor is always creating value on our behalf,” Segerstrom says.
Christie Clinic used the EMR system to launch the clinic’s first value-based initiative, which has involved finding a better way to treat patients with hypertension.
In May 2017, Christie Clinic contracted outside consultants, who helped Segerstrom’s team set forth a plan to remove all the unnecessary paperwork used to request tests, and make it easier for physicians to find the results.
However, Christie Clinic’s EMR vendor had never used the type of hardware the consultant suggested. So a member of Segerstrom’s staff worked directly with the clinic’s vendor to write HL7 code that was compatible with the system. The new software was launched in November, and now, whenever doctors request an order for a test, they do it entirely through the EMR system and the results are automatically sent back.
Through better treatment, Segerstrom says the clinic may curb illnesses that are related to hypertension, “because we have it more under control.”
Along with treating specific diseases with more precision, Christie Clinic is also looking for new ways to reach patients who live in rural communities.
“So many people have to travel to a larger town like Champaign [Illinois’ tenth largest city] to get their healthcare,” he says.
To do this, the clinic is considering using telemedicine, which uses telecommunications and video conferencing software to connect patients and doctors.
While this is not yet reimbursable in Illinois, Segerstrom says this is the type of project that will keep Christie Clinic on the cutting edge and continue as an independent healthcare provider rather than part of a larger network.
“If we can do that, working with our team and our strategic resources, then I can consider that a win for the organization and our patients,” he says.
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