Nothing fuels innovation and reveals untapped potential like a big challenge; something the North Peace Division of Family Practice has first-hand experience with. The community lost eight GPs in a period of two months, resulting in huge increases in clinic wait-times. While developing ideas to help alleviate this urgent problem, the Division made an interesting discovery – a technology tool originally intended to facilitate follow-up calls was also able to dramatically decrease wait times at two clinics. Not only does this make things better for patients, it also improves conditions for physicians and medical office staff.
InphoniteVoice is a software program that automates clinic scheduling and increases patient access to physicians at a relatively low long-term cost.
Implemented by the North Peace Division with support from the provincial Divisions Innovation Fund, InphoniteVoice was intended as an appointment follow-up tool for complex-care patients.
With the departure of the eight physicians, patients were waiting up to four weeks to see a doctor. Many were going to the ER for non-emergency care. Many patients didn’t cancel their original appointments, resulting in 1,321 recorded no-shows over a three-month period, only increasing the inefficiency of the office and costing the system about $40,000 in lost time.
The InphoniteVoice system was indispensable during this physician shortage. Integrating with electronic medical record (EMR) systems, InphoniteVoice can be configured to send automated reminders to patients the night before their appointment. Patients confirm or cancel with the touch of a button and the system rearranges the clinic schedule accordingly.
Implementation was the culmination of a long-term collaborative process between the North Peace Division of Family Practice and Prince George physician Dr William Clifford, who was appointed to the Order of British Columbia in 2014 for pioneering medical information technology in BC and was involved in the early years implementing Inphonite and its predecessor into MOIS (Medical Office Information System).
After InphoniteVoice implementation, no-shows at the North Peace Division’s two clinics decreased by 77% and they were able to make available an average of six appointments each day. The system has improved the primary care experience for North Peace Division patients, clinic physicians, and medical office assistants (MOAs). “InphoniteVoice does exactly what it says it will do,” states MOA Linda Querin. “Patients appreciate the reminder, and from a professional perspective it feels really good when we’re able to offer them an appointment the same day they call.”
The sentiment is echoed by Rochelle Martin, another Prince George MOA. “Being able to fill cancelled appointments is often the difference between the patient getting a same-day appointment versus waiting up to a month.”
In addition to its scheduling functions, InphoniteVoice can send automated phone announcements to targeted patient groups; for example, flu shot reminders for patients who are elderly or have chronic diseases.
The set-up cost for the North Peace Division’s two clinics was approximately $80,000, provided by the Innovation Fund. The majority of the cost went to creating the interface between InphoniteVoice and MOIS, the EMR system used by the North Peace Division. Yearly costs now amount to less than $2,200 per year for both clinics and the new interface has opened the door for other divisions who use MOIS to streamline their operations with InphoniteVoice. Divisions using other EMRs can contact InphoniteVoice to ask about other available interfaces. The system can also operate as a “telephone newsletter,” enabling clinics to keep patients informed of important news such as doctor retirements, new clinic hours, etc. via text messages, phone calls, or e-mail.