Like a long friendship, a long partnership depends on a few key qualities and commitments by each member. For East Bay Pediatrics and PCC, shared values of compassion and dedication to providing the personalized services that both patients and physicians need to achieve their best has been the cornerstone of a partnership that has lasted over 30 years. We spoke to East Bay Pediatrics’ managing partner, Dr. Christina S.L. Vo, MD, FAAP, to ask her how their evolving partnership with PCC has helped them continue to shift their efforts to offer the best quality customer service and care for their families.
About East Bay Pediatrics
East Bay Pediatrics is a California practice with two locations in Orinda and Berkeley. They take care to run both offices as a single unit, to give patients a familiar, friendly experience, no matter which location they visit. Dr. Vo took over as managing partner in 2017 from Dr. Richard Oken, who still does contracted work in order to see his patients. While East Bay Pediatrics had been partners with PCC and using their practice management system since 1989, by 2011, the then-managing partners decided that it was time to make the switch from paper to PCC’s EHR.
East Bay Pediatrics, like PCC, knows that strong teamwork is key to success. Even before their Go-Live date, the day where PCC implementation experts guide a practice through their first days using the EHR for real patients, East Bay Pediatrics came together to ensure a successful transition. The practice created teams to address every workflow from the patient visit to forms to phone calls. Every member of the practice was part of a team, and team leaders were front desk staff, MA’s and nurses, not just doctors. “Because we practiced so much, and we did so many test patients before they came, basically the Implementation Team helped us learn lots of cool shortcuts and tricks, and made it much easier for us,” says Dr. Vo. “So the implementation process ended up working really well for us.” Due to the combination of a prepared team and an early flu season, East Bay Pediatrics increased in revenue during their EHR implementation month compared to prior years.
When reflecting on what has kept East Bay Pediatrics partnered with PCC for so many years, Dr. Vo remarked that the support in so many aspects of independent practice has helped the practice stay on track. PCC gives clinical support, IT support, financial support and simple logistical support with its various tools, reports, and insights on how practices fully utilize the EHR. “I think over the years it’s really been the service,” she said. “Right now we have weekly meetings with our Client Advocate, and especially with all the changes after the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to check in frequently and make sure we’re doing things right, and asking our questions, has been really helpful.”
“I think that the idea of a EHR company that truly does support independent practice is really key, and I think that’s what PCC really offers. Large EHRs don’t offer that, large EHRs are not interested in small beans practices. They’re interested in big systems, and getting big numbers, and that’s great. That’s great for Kaiser, that’s great for Stanford, that’s great for UCSF, but that’s not great for East Bay Pediatrics where we have ten doctors.”Dr. Christina Vo, MD, FAAP
Their Client Advocate is available to point the management team towards new tools that will work for East Bay Pediatrics’ specific needs, such as the Appointment Book, which has helped the practice organize their doctors’ schedules across two locations more efficiently. Dr. Vo likes these reminders to try something new: “We have had CAs in the past that have been really good about saying, ‘Hey, look this is new and I want you to really try to focus on this for your practice!’” With insights from their CA, East Bay Pediatrics has felt empowered to begin new ways of offering flu vaccines and telemedicine and explore COVID-19 testing.
East Bay Pediatrics also works with PedsOne pediatric billing, and the coordination between these three healthcare resources — the clinical team, EHR support, and billing experts — help the practice make effective changes. “That’s actually really key in trying to make sure everything is done right,” says Dr. Vo. “Because we’ve got the three components if we need to.”
This coordination even helps East Bay Pediatrics make large scale changes without a fuss. One big change for the practice’s two locations was the switch to easier and more comprehensive scheduling with the Appointment Book. East Bay Pediatrics has a complex schedule with different start times and locations for each doctor each day. Before implementing the Appointment Book, staff would need an average of one month to enter the physicians’ schedule into Partner; when a change needed to be made it would take hours for staff to change the calendar and reschedule patients. The Appointment Book’s clear visuals make it easy to move a doctor’s schedule from one location to another or add in another meeting or block extra time for a difficult patient. All of these features were helpful for the practice in normal times but essential during the pandemic when schedules were changing weekly.
Before implementing the Appointment Book, the physicians sometimes struggled to remember which clinic, Orinda or Berkeley, they were scheduled to work on a given day. The Appointment Book’s clear visuals make it easy to check a box and see exactly where each pediatrician is scheduled to be, making both administrative and scheduling easier. You can even configure the tool to see appointments only for a single location, or view multiple providers across all locations.
Switching the way you schedule your patients seems a large task for a practice because everyone from admin staff to clinicians are affected, so East Bay Pediatrics made sure to prepare carefully with their Client Advocate before the change. The switch to Appointment Book ended up being well worth the effort. “It was much easier than we had thought it was going to be,” Dr. Vo reported. “We’d been talking about the Appointment Book for a while. Once we went on, it’s been great!”
“Pretty much everything that PCC does helps us to operate as an independent practice. We have an easy to use EHR that we can adapt quickly to changes. We can easily track financial and productivity goals. We get guidance from PCC on what metrics to follow. We have a host of colleagues to share ideas with.”Dr. Christina Vo
Support for Independent Pediatrics
Most important for East Bay Pediatrics is the ability to pull the reports that help them run their practice at its best. They are using PCC’s reports to see how they’re doing on payments for telemedicine, to check on COVID testing, the Visit Reason Report to see how many newborns are arriving at the practice, as well as to check their progress on a QI project with their Asthma Action Plan. “It’s pretty easy to pull the reports,” says Dr. Vo, “Pulling them up on the Dashboard only takes a few seconds [for practice management reports such as payments]. And when we talk about other EHR systems, we just can’t imagine that we could do the same level of reporting that we can get through PCC.”
While East Bay Pediatrics has relationships with hospitals in the area, when they were asked to switch to another EHR for easier reporting between the two, Dr. Vo and the practice resisted. “I can’t be a small practice and not be able to get my numbers for weeks to months,” said Dr. Vo. Her long term relationship with PCC was also at stake. “Then we would lose that connection — with all the support from all the different practices that are using PCC, from Chip, from John, from our CA.”
As a practice with more than 30 years in partnership with PCC, Dr. Vo knows that she can depend on not only PCC’s EHR and services, but the people that will help answer her questions and who truly want to help make her practice succeed, from her colleagues at fellow PCC practice via PCC Community, to her Client Advocate and the Pediatric Solutions team at PCC.
“Pretty much everything that PCC does helps us to operate as an independent practice. We have an easy to use EHR that we can adapt quickly to changes. We can easily track financial and productivity goals. We get guidance from PCC on what metrics to follow. We have a host of colleagues to share ideas with.”
“It’s always being able to call and ask your questions and get them answered,” she said. “We have a pretty close connection with John and Chip, we can reach out to them if there’s anything that we are thinking about that’s bigger picture, or if there’s anything going wrong. So there’s definitely a good relationship in terms of advisors and feeling like my practice is important to PCC. Even though PCC has gotten bigger, I can still go to Chip [Hart, Director of Pediatric Solutions] and John [Canning, PCC’s president and co-founder] if I need to. So I think that’s a huge advantage.”
PCC’s support of independent pediatrics means that like Dr. Vo, practices get tools designed for their unique needs like the Appointment Book, pediatric-specific features like Bright Futures guidelines and eRx. But perhaps more importantly, practices like East Bay Pediatrics have solid relationships with experts in both pediatric business and PCC’s tools, to help them make the most of every goal, circumstance, and feature.
Response to COVID-19
Prior to the start of the pandemic, East Bay Pediatrics’ goal was to see 22 patients per provider each day. Of course, no one expected that their goals for 2020 would change so drastically. Dr. Vo reports that while they saw an initial 40% decrease in their daily visits, they worked back up to about 80% of 2019’s visits by the latter half of 2020, and their charges have only decreased about 10%, helping them maintain the revenue they need to recover.
By staggering physician schedules, separating well visits and sick visits, and establishing thorough cleaning regimens, East Bay Pediatrics has made patients feel comfortable to come into the office for both “essential well visits” (visits for vaccines, for chronic illness, or long term medication) and sick visits. Telemedicine visits make up for the rest of the difference in productivity. They are also incredibly pleased that their families continue to return to their care because it means the many changes the practice has had to implement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are paying off and they are caring for the patients who need them most. East Bay Pediatrics worked hard to quickly recover patients and revenue while keeping patients, doctors and staff safe. Doing so has allowed them to show up for patients during a frightening time and to make sure their doors remain wide open for years to come.
Dr. Vo credits this turnaround to her team’s amazing flexibility. “It’s been amazing. Staff flexibility, doctor flexibility, the doctors all stagger now. All the lunches are staggered. One doctor does tele-health, and that doctor can either come in and use the computer in the office, or stay at home. I think we really have worked well together. We feel like this is the best for our families, our patients.”
PCC offered a host of tools and services early in the pandemic, such as Broadcast Messaging and PCC Chat early in the pandemic, which Dr. Vo says helped her practice stay afloat. Broadcast messaging allows a practice to message all patients or subsets of patients on changing hours, updates to safety requirements, as well as general news, events, and announcements. PCC Chat is an internal chat feature that allows staff to communicate in the office easily, keeping workflows moving without ever needing to leave the EHR.
The practice found that their trusted PCC reports and tools for patient recall were helpful during the pandemic. Reports and the Dashboard helped them see how payments for COVID-19 testing and telemedicine were doing, and patient recall helped the physicians weigh which patients to prioritize for essential visits, such as for vaccines.
As processes went remote and online almost overnight, broadcast messaging allowed PCC practices like East Bay Pediatrics to contact their patients remotely on how the practice was constantly adapting, from changes in their hours to how families could safely drive up for appointments and call to check in.
Dr. Vo explains that the support they had had setting up the Appointment Book before the pandemic was a huge relief. “I don’t see how we could have done the schedule, and the amount of changes that we’ve done to the schedule, without it.” With tools and support readily available, the team spirit has helped carry the practice through. While the pandemic resulted in a financial hit for many practices across the country, Dr. Vo says that after the challenges of the first half of 2020, East Bay Pediatrics had recovered well enough to return staff to full time and begin hiring again by the summer.
Another 30 Years?
“We’ve shown in the last six months that we really can make changes quickly,” says Dr. Vo of her practice’s resilience during the spring and summer of 2020.
Dr. Vo’s practice goals are clear, and just as long friendships highlight certain similarities, both East Bay Pediatrics and PCC look to the future with changing parental expectations and patient experience in mind. “What we want is to be able to maintain a similar level of patient population, and we want to be able to make the changes to keep us fresh and to keep us a desirable practice for families. And I think that we don’t necessarily need to grow to do that. We don’t want to get too big,” Dr. Vo explains, “But we also want to be big enough. I just worry that if we keep getting bigger, then we get to the point where we don’t have as good customer service.”
Some of East Bay Pediatrics’ favorite tools for customer service include intuitive telehealth appointment support within the EHR, the print-to-EHR feature to add documents into a patient’s record, and lab requisitions. Dr. Vo notes that PCC’s new features help them improve on their service goals continuously. “We want to be able to do that kind of thing so that we can be able to utilize EHR as fully as possible, and use it to try to have really good customer service, and I think we can.”
Despite all the changes the practice has had to undergo during the pandemic and over their distinguished history, Dr. Vo has full confidence in her team to adapt and grow in order to give their patients the best patient care around. With PCC on their side, East Bay Pediatrics looks forward to many more years of excellent service and support, even when the unexpected happens.