When you have big goals for your pediatric practice and need to switch EHRs, it can be hard to know if your new vendor can satisfy your practice’s needs and match all your hard work. When Sanford Pediatrics in Sanford, North Carolina decided to take the leap and switch to PCC, they were delighted to not only keep the personalized support they valued, but also gain essential analytics tools that help them continue to be leaders in independent practice excellence. We spoke to Sanford Pediatrics’ office manager Tommie Angel, the practice’s point-person for data, reports, and administration and their champion for completing their lofty benchmark goals, to discover how PCC’s personalized support exceeded her high expectations.
“PCC has stepped up to the bat,” she says. “The doctors are pleased. They like the charting much better. Protocols are much easier when they’re the way you want them for each provider. They can go in and make it be exactly what they want. There are capabilities we didn’t have with our old system — automated eligibility, for example. We love that. We’re looking forward to more changes in the EHR.”
In 2019, Sanford Pediatrics decided that their EHR, SuccessEHS, and practice management solution, Practice Express, presented gaps in customization that were keeping them from their goals. The practice’s frustrated pediatricians wanted to move on. While they explored their EHR options, a pediatrician neighbor and PCC client, Dr. Christoph Diasio, MD, FAAP of Sandhills Pediatrics, pointed them in the direction of his favored EHR.
The EHR switch was a little emotional for Tommie Angel at Sanford Pediatrics, who felt bereft at losing the support and relationships she fostered and trusted, but found the switch to PCC a pleasant surprise, especially with the regular support of her Client Advocate, Jim Smith. While she feared being overlooked as a small pediatric practice, the EHR company makes it a priority to answer all of her questions and get proactive about solutions that fit Sanford Pediatrics’ needs. “I didn’t want to lose that personal touch [in support team members],” Tommie says, “I didn’t know if we’d keep that. And we have! PCC has gone above and beyond what I had hoped for. Jim has been wonderful about listening and actually hearing and acting on my questions and needs.”
Sanford Pediatrics’ physicians, staff, and Tommie quickly found PCC offered customization options that they hadn’t had before. Customized protocols and templates make workflows more natural for each pediatrician and accessible for Tommie’s staff. For example, one pediatrician can customize her 4 week infant well-visit protocols to cover Bright Futures guidelines, where another might adjust hers differently — neither interferes with the other and pediatricians can chart how they’d individually like. This process makes clinical and office workflows easier for Tommie’s team and meets their needs for an EHR that can adapt to each practitioner’s preferences
Tommie’s responsibilities at Sanford Pediatrics are many: in a given day, tasks vary between quality reporting, HR, credentialing, office management, and technical support. She jokes, “Our office is small. And so when something goes wrong it’s, ‘Tommie, Tommie, what do I do? What do I do?’” While she is used to having most of the answers, occasionally even she is stumped for a solution.
“The beauty of it is that I do have someone who can answer any question — PCC is always there for us. Our Client Advocate is Jim Smith, and he’s wonderful. We’ve actually developed a really good working relationship. He is my primary contact, but anyone that I’ve worked with at PCC has been wonderful.”
The Sanford Pediatrics team, including Tommie Angel in the front row, right.
At PCC, a Client Advocate is a practice’s link between their daily tasks and PCC’s constantly expanding set of features and tools, and is introduced after the practice “graduates” from their implementation process, where they get to know PCC’s features and begin using the EHR during their everyday workflows.
During the practice’s first 18 months with PCC, Tommie’s weekly phone calls with Jim developed as she and the Sanford pediatricians got to know their new EHR better. Jim and Tommie began by exploring features together that Jim presented as solutions that could help Sanford Pediatrics accomplish their goals. Eventually Tommie herself took over asking questions and selecting features, and now Jim helps her customize tools and reports that she’ll use to complete projects, hit benchmark goals, and exceed performance measures. “I created a new category called CQN and several reports that make the monthly reporting quick and easy,” she says.
These performance measures are a top priority for Sanford Pediatrics, because of North Carolina’s Medicaid switch in 2021 to managed care organizations, which affects nearly two-thirds of its total patient population. This change means the practice has new performance measures that are required to enable them to get paid, and PCC’s Dashboard tools and report library have helped Tommie set the bar high for the practice’s performance.
“The Vitals Dashboard is my friend, I love that,” she says. The PCC Vitals Dashboard gives a practice ranked scores to help them determine which benchmark measures they’re excelling at, and the top 5 that need the most attention. While Sanford Pediatrics runs a tight ship and has always excelled in their practice of pediatric medicine, PCC’s Practice Vitals Dashboard enabled them to continue to meet their goals and even exceed them — after joining PCC and addressing gaps in their recall efforts and immunization rates, Sanford Pediatrics’ clinical dashboard scores went from just below 60% in January 2020 to over 90% in April 2021. For a score that weighs well visit rates, immunization rates, ADD/ADHD followup, sick-to-well visit ratio, and diagnoses-per-visit, this increase is an outstanding achievement.
“Our Vitals Dashboard has helped me work hard on our appointment follow ups, people who need imms,” says Tommie. “We work those reports hard. The reporting part helps us.”
“The beauty of it is that I do have someone who can answer any question — PCC is always there for us. Our Client Advocate is Jim Smith, and he’s wonderful. We’ve actually developed a really good working relationship. He is my primary contact, but anyone that I’ve worked with at PCC has been wonderful.”Tommie Angel
Sanford’s Client Advocate Jim Smith says that while his main role as a CA is to offer guidance for projects or PCC tools the staff can take on to achieve goals, more often than not, Tommie is way ahead of him: “She’s got the agenda, she’s got the 10 commandments chiseled out in her office — and I go where she needs to go.”
Tommie’s proactive use of PCC’s features is a delight for Jim. “Jim laughs at me when he looks at my reports library, because I build a bunch of my own reports,” Tommie says. “He said, ‘Man, I love how you’re using this reports library!’ And I said, ‘Well, it makes it easy!’”
Tommie explains that with Jim and the Dashboard’s help, her practice continues to take strides towards excellent benchmarks: “We did not have great scores on weight assessment and counseling [and some others]. It was a result of documenting the data but not in a manner that allowed it to be reportable. We knew we were documenting, so having the Vitals Dashboard helped us to ensure we were capturing it in the reportable way — which is helpful with QI reporting. Without the Dashboard we may not have caught this. We corrected it with the help of PCC support and Jim and now it is reporting correctly and those measures are gradually improving.”
Their teamwork has resulted in great progress for Sanford Pediatrics, and their Tommie is proud to say that their Dashboard performance measures show it.
“Our numbers are great! We’re very proud of those numbers. [The Dashboard] helps us see where we fall short. For example, there was a measure that the doctors were documenting it, but it wasn’t being captured in a reportable way because we weren’t doing it as an order. I might not have known it wasn’t reportable without the Dashboard tool! I look at [the Dashboard] the first Saturday of every month [when it is updated]. Those are some things we’ve come to really appreciate about PCC.”
Sanford Pediatrics’ analytics and performance goals even include participation in national projects, such as one that aims to improve adolescent immunizations. Tommie says that showing improvement in these measures helps her physician colleagues qualify for their required CME credits.
“And to be perfectly honest, and I guess I am bragging, but there are, I think, 14 practices across the country that are participating in this particular project, and our numbers are some of the best in the project. And it’s because of having a product that helps us drill down on these patients that are delinquent on this immunization, or haven’t had their wellness visit and been able to do it that way.”