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Building a Concierge Medical Practice That Puts Patients First

by Christine D’Amico

Do you feel like a number when you visit your family doctor? Are you rushed in and out? As you’re leaving, do you realize you haven’t gone over your medical history or asked all the questions you wanted?

You are not alone. In America today, most medical practices are owned by, or associated with, the bigger healthcare facilities. Under this business model, doctors are essentially the employees. They have to see as many patients per hour as possible. As a result, patients get short-changed.

Fewer Patients, Better Care

Dedication Health is different. Our concierge medical practice thinks first and foremost about the patients. Launched 3 years ago by well-known area physicians, John E. Croghan, M.D., and Philip H. Sheridan, Jr., M.D., Dedication Health provides patients with the most advanced medical care and technology available today, combined with the personal level of healthcare lacking in traditional medical practices.

Great healthcare thinks first and foremost about the patients.

Our concept is simple: We have a lower volume of patients and a higher volume of care. This allows for the quality of the patient/doctor relationship to grow and eliminates the limited or restricted access to specialized medical care facing most practices today.

We offer personalized healthcare that’s tailored to you. We know how busy our patient’s lives can be, so we offer same-day appointments, as well as 24/7 text, email or cell phone access to a physician. And while at the office, if you’re the type of patient who shows up with a list of questions for a short consultation, then you’re able to move in and out of the office quickly. If you prefer to discuss your medical needs in more detail, your physician can do that, too. Your physician will talk to you about how you sleep, what you eat, and what kind of stress you’re feeling— as all these things can impact your health. Your blood pressure, glucose levels, and your weight are all affected by your habits. We focus on the whole patient, offering a holistic approach that covers every aspect of your well-being.

Running any practice—let alone one with such a high level of touch—requires everything to work harmoniously. As practice manager, I focus on the day-to-day activities of the practice. Our office offers CT scans and X-rays on-site. We also offer blood tests with immediate results, like the ones you receive in emergency rooms. I manage these services, but I also help existing members schedule tests and or outside doctor’s appointments, assist new members with registration, and invite prospective members to meet and greets with the physicians.

When I say all aspects of our practice need to work well with each other, that includes the technology side. In healthcare, one of the biggest challenges is making sure you have the technology in the office that meets your needs—and connects the dots. But it also has to fit in regulatory requirements. For me, this all has to happen while trying to do every other aspect of my job.

Building and Connecting a Concierge Medical Practice

The connection piece of the puzzle is due to the nature of healthcare. While Dedication Health serves the Greater Chicago Region, we don’t exist in a vacuum. We work in collaboration with regional healthcare providers. Our partners include the Presence and NorthShore University Healthcare Hospital Networks.

As a result of our regional partnerships, we use our Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system and also connect to North Shore’s EMR. Hooking our small practice into a healthcare network comprising four hospitals isn’t easy. Fortunately, we have Dave Klopack of Agilant to help connect us to our regional partners. I’ve worked with Dave for years. He knows the Presence and NorthShore networks. He and his team are experts in Epic, the EMR used to manage the healthcare records of some 90 million Americans.

Dr. Croghan and I first teamed up with Dave when he ran True Network Solutions (TNS), which was eventually acquired by Agilant. Epic was still a new thing. Our office went from thousands of paper files to electronic records overnight. That was years before Dedication Health. It was an independent practice affiliated with NorthShore. In fact, it was the first off-site physician’s office to integrate NorthShore’s Network and EMR.

Tom Carpenter was also part of that team, and he joined Dave at Agilant during the acquisition. We transitioned to Agilant because we had such good service from the legacy team, and we wanted to continue that standard of quality.

The Right Partner

I never have to worry with Dave and Agilant. He shows up and tells me what we need, what works, and what doesn’t.

To give you one example, we have our own radiology department. Everything is lined with lead: the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. I had no idea how our network would function in such an environment. I put the question to Dave. He put together a team and made everything work.

Tom worked hard to integrate all the radiology IP addresses into our internal network. He’s another standout at Agilant.

Healthcare is too specialized to deal with an IT service provider who doesn’t know the industry.

When we opened Dedication Health, Tom helped set up our phone system. Our initial supplier dropped the ball. Everything was set up wrong. The original supplier unpacked the phones, plugged them in, and left us with a tangled mess. You can’t imagine how stressed we were. Telephones are crucial to a medical practice. We might as well shut our doors if our phone lines are down. But Agilant understood our needs, and we were quickly up and running with a system that worked.

Showing Up and Doing More

When our staff expanded to include additional physicians, we had to redistribute our office space. I called Dave and gave him the date. I knew he’d show up as scheduled. With most vendors, I’d say, “Come by October 1st.” Then I’d call up on September 25th to make sure we were still booked. I’d then hope they would show.

When Dave says our equipment is arriving on a particular day, I know it’ll be here. I also know he won’t just drop off a pile of boxes. He’ll send a support team to set everything up. After Agilant leaves, I never find myself saying, “Hey! This printer isn’t working. Why isn’t that laptop powering up?”

Agilant’s technicians also give us all the time we need because they understand how a practice works. If someone arrives at 2 p.m. to tune up Dr. Croghan’s desktop, they’ll wait until he’s finished with his patient. If they can’t duplicate a problem I have with my computer, they’ll ask me to go through my day so they can catch whatever is going wrong.

If I have another issue I failed to mention in my call, Agilant’s techs will have a look. They won’t ask me to call back, open another ticket, and book another visit. Like us, they don’t treat their customers like numbers.

EMRs and HIPAA Compliance

As I said earlier, Agilant knows healthcare. Dave’s level of expertise is phenomenal. That’s why we brought him in when we started Dedication Health. Agilant has the tech and the vendor relationships. Dave understands how technology works in a medical practice. He knows how to network telephones and computers, printers, faxes, and lab equipment. He understands our backup and storage needs. He especially knows EMRs.

We use two EMRs at Dedication Health: Epic and athenaClinicals. Both have different requirements as far as security and HIPAA compliance are concerned. The Health Insurance Portability and Availability Act (HIPAA) protects patient privacy. It establishes standards for electronic healthcare transactions. It also regulates the use and sharing of protected health information (PHI).

All our systems must meet HIPAA standards, but vendors implement compliance in different ways. Whenever you sign up for an EMR, you’re given a set of technical requirements. Screens must be a specific size. You need X amount of backup space. Your network must adhere to this or that security protocol. User access must be restricted according to a set of strict rules.

I’m the practice manager. I simply don’t have the time to implement these new systems or stay on top of every single regulation. I just send the details to Agilant and Dave can assemble everything I need.

A Partnership That Is Changing Healthcare

When people think of personalized healthcare, they think of physicians from years ago. Back then, your family doctor made house calls and knew everyone in your neighborhood. That’s not how things work anymore. A kindly soul doesn’t show up with a leather bag. Your physician doesn’t pull out a stethoscope, a thermometer, and a tongue depressor at your bedside. You only see that in Norman Rockwell paintings now.

It’s a comforting image, but it’s nothing like today’s high-tech healthcare environments. In the 21st century, personalized medicine is highly connected.

A holistic approach to medicine requires a holistic approach to IT. @ASISystem

Our CT scanners talk with our computers, which are in turn hooked up a Radiologist to do the readings quickly. Our patients use our website to track their health online. Our doctors have access to patient information and test results on iPads and iPhones. Everyone is connected 24/7.

When it works, it’s seamless. When it doesn’t, it can be a nightmare.

Dave and Agilant are like a concierge practice that monitors and maintains our IT health. Like our physicians, they favor a long-term holistic approach. They focus on prevention by starting with bespoke tools that meet our needs. They follow up with personal attention to make sure everything works to spec.

Our doctors ensure our patients lead healthy productive lives. Agilant helps us maintain our IT and telecommunications structure at peak efficiency. It is a symbiotic relationship. Together, we’ve built a new clinical model that puts patients first.

Dedication Health couldn’t have happened as flawlessly without Agilant. Their personalized approach to IT enables our personalized approach to medicine. Agilant keeps things simple so we can keep patients healthy.