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How Digital Health Technology Has Helped Columbia Orthopaedic Group Become a Top ASC

How do you become a top-ranked ambulatory surgery center (ASC)?

For The Surgical Center at Columbia Orthopaedic Group, recognized twice by Newsweek as the top ASC in Missouri, focusing on superior patient experience and outcomes has made all the difference

During a recent webinar, the CEO of The Surgical Center at Columbia Orthopaedic Group, Andrew Lovewell, and its President, Dr. Bus Tarbox, discussed exactly how they achieve such outcomes, including a practically unheard-of net promoter score of 99.

Below are several of the most interesting exchanges during the webinar.

Question: How has the trend toward patient consumerism shown up in your practice?

Dr. Bus Tarbox: I've been practicing for about 21 years. And the kinds of patients who aren’t willing to go online have aged out at this point. In my sports practice, my opt-in rate for virtual care is equivalent between my patients who are 25 to 35 years old and those between 65 and 88. I do telehealth visits and review my MRIs as a telehealth visit with all my patients, including my 80 year olds, and they're eager to do it.

So this age of virtual care is really upon us. And it scared me a couple of years ago when I tried to figure out how I could be an orthopedic surgeon and do telemedicine when it's so important for me to get my hands on a patient and examine them. Well, we quickly shifted gears, and I actually do a fair amount of telemedicine now. And we're seeing the shift to patient consumerism across the country, not just here in Missouri.

Question: What other changes have you made in response to these trends?

Andrew Lovewell: During COVID, we went through a shutdown, and then we looked for opportunities to improve our patient engagement strategy, but also collect outcomes to prove that what we were doing was right and was the future. So our doctors all came together, we demoed several platforms, and we selected Force Therapeutics’ platform. Force was the leader in the market.

We've been with Force since June of 2020 and have had great success. Our patients rave about it all the time. And we're just excited to be here and talk about our success and opportunities moving forward.

Question: Given all the healthcare-in-a-box systems out there that deliver one-size-fits-all care, how important do you think it is that, with the Force platform, the provider creates the care plan?

Dr. Bus Tarbox: It's super important that I'm directing it and that the patients know that I've created this plan to help them get better.

Question: How does your creation of the care plan in Force help you achieve quality outcomes?

Dr. Bus Tarbox: I know that the digital protocols are what I chose for my patient. So it's the exact same thing I would do in the clinic with them. Now they're getting that information ahead of time, and I'm still ensuring the outcomes that we want to achieve.

Andrew Lovewell: You actually have more control over outcomes because you have more access to the patient, and they have more access to you. So you can intervene and direct their care at any point in time. They can message you and say, “Hey, listen, my shoulder hurts when I do this exercise.”  And your care team can respond, “Okay, well, let's change that and do something different,” or “We need to see you.” As a result, you have significantly more control over the patient journey and experience when you leverage a solution like this.

Before we adopted Force Therapeutics’ platform, our providers pushed back, fearing their patients would message them at 11 o'clock at night. But that hasn’t happened because we've done such a good job of creating the care protocols. So there's not a lot of back-and-forth messaging within the platform. And on top of that, there's none of these phone calls from patients that go unanswered because the doctor is out or in surgery. With multiple members of the care team able to respond to platform messages, the patient gets the information they need right away.

Most of the questions are ones that we’ve anticipated and that our doctors have provided written guidance on how to answer. But if the question raises something the doctor needs to address, we can always escalate that to the physician.

Dr. Bus Tarbox: As Andrew said, I get in the operating room at 6:30 a.m. and I may not get out until late in the afternoon. So instead of patients having to wait all that time to get an answer, we get their message on the platform, we quickly respond, and the patient has the information they need. That’s just one way the platform empowers patients to take control of their recovery. And that's how we get good outcomes.

Andrew Lovewell: Our responsiveness to patients is also why our patient satisfaction is so high. We have a net promoter score of 99.

Question: How do you use the outcomes data the platform enables you to collect?

Andrew Lovewell: We use the outcomes data for several different things. For example, we do a lot of internal benchmarking. In fact, when we have meetings, the data is not blinded, so each doctor gets to see their outcomes versus their peers. And that's led to some discoveries and information-sharing among our physicians, as they try to match their higher-performing peers.We also use outcomes data in negotiations with payers and to show them our value.

For example, one of the largest payers in the state toured our facility a couple of weeks ago. We showed them our outcomes data, our patient engagement data, and our net promoter score. And their medical director looks at the data and says, “We need to send you more patients.”

Want to Hear More?

You can listen to the entire webinar here and learn other perspectives our guests shared about digital care, including the questions ASCs should ask in evaluating digital care platforms.

Join thousands of healthcare executives, orthopedic surgeons, and care team members who trust Force as their digital care partner.

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