Located on the 27th floor of the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza, the UTHealth Department of Otorhinolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery offers patients an outstanding view that overlooks Rice University, Hermann Park and the Houston skyline. With the addition of new technology and a patient portal to the state-of-the-art office suite, patients are now also enjoying unprecedented convenience and efficiency.
“As patients become increasingly involved with their healthcare and more technologically savvy, they’re looking for convenient ways to communicate with their physicians,” says Manjit Kaur, director of management operations for the department. “We’ve had electronic medical records for some time now and recently added online scheduling of appointments as an option for patients. A new portal allows patients to take a more active role in their healthcare by allowing them access to certain parts of their EMR and communication with their physicians. In addition to giving patients more control over their experience with us, our new systems have added efficiencies that benefit our office staff and physicians.”
ScheduleNow offers patients immediate online scheduling of appointments 24/7. “Once a patient has requested an appointment time, our schedulers can click a link that takes us to that patient’s demographics, allowing us to register the patient immediately,” Kaur says. “When we contact the patient to confirm the appointment, we let them know what to expect during their visit and what paperwork will be required. Having online scheduling capability frees up our schedulers to take more emergent calls. ScheduleNow also allows hospital case managers to schedule follow-up appointments with our physicians when they discharge a patient after surgery.”
“We’re very excited to offer our patients the opportunity to interact directly with office staff and physicians at their convenience,” Kaur says. “For us, it represents another step toward our goal of continuous improvement of patient-physician communication.”
On the physician side, the Memorial Herman Image Gateway, a cloud-based solution for the storage of medical imaging, allows physicians to share images with other healthcare facilities worldwide, reducing the need for repeat imaging procedures. “If we send a patient for an MRI or CT scan, the result is immediately sent to our department through the DICOM portal,” says José Elias, RN, CORLN “Instead of sending the results of a scan to us on CD, a referring physician can load the image directly to our cloud-based storage. In addition, the application also allows us to invite physicians outside the Memorial Hermann system to sign up and transfer images. For instance, if referring physicians would like an immediate consult with one of our physicians, they can upload scan images and ask for recommendations on care before an upcoming appointment. Imaging studies provided by referring physicians can also be used in planning surgery, which may eliminate the need for additional imaging studies.”
Another relatively new technology, D-Scope, allows physicians in the department to record both still and video images of patient examinations for documentation. D-Scope workstations in patient exam rooms have the capability to connect to any medical camera to capture still images and video. The digital files can be reviewed at any other Dscope workstation at any time; recently, a new web application, which allows access to the recordings via a broadband internet connection, was added. Physicians can use the images to follow the course of patient’s treatment. In addition, patients are encourage to view the recordings to that they can get a better understanding of their medical conditions.
“Our office is designed to allow us to assemble information from a variety of diverse sources, manage the flow of information efficiently and optimize it for better patient outcomes,” says Martin J. Citardi, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery at McGovern Medical School and chief of otorhinolaryngology at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “Our central mission is to provide exceptional patient care, and we continue to integrate emerging technology that will allow us to achieve that goal while at the same time encouraging patients to participate more actively in their own care.”
“We want our patients to feel that their entire experience with us is designed to meet their needs,” Kaur adds. “If we refer a patient to another specialist, we make sure that appointment is scheduled before they leave our office. We also work across hospital lines to ensure that imaging studies, appointments and follow-ups are all scheduled on the same day.”
Kaur says that feedback from patients is good. “They’re very appreciative, and the addition of the new technology is reflected in our patient satisfaction scores. As technology becomes a more important part of daily life, it’s important for physician practices to welcome it with open arms, from both the standpoint of quality of care and patient convenience.”