Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from Ap­ple to re­shape provider, pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence

Modern Healthcare - - INNOVATIONS - By Rachel Z. Arndt

Pa­tients walk­ing in the front door of the Univer­sity of Min­nesota Health Clin­ics and Surgery Cen­ter in Min­neapo­lis may do a dou­ble take, think­ing in­stead that they’ve en­tered an Ap­ple store.

Reg­is­tra­tion desks have been re­placed by greeters armed with iPads. Pa­tients are tagged elec­tron­i­cally so providers can find them any­where in the wait­ing ar­eas—on lounge chairs near win­dows, at coun­ters with stools, on con­ven­tional chairs and couches—with­out call­ing out their names. And when pos­si­ble, pa­tients’ lab tests are sched­uled be­fore their vis­its, mak­ing the ac­tual vis­its more ef­fi­cient.

The fo­cus on con­sumerism and a more pa­tient-cen­tric en­vi­ron­ment is pay­ing off. Since the Univer­sity of Min­nesota Health (M Health) opened the five-story, 342,000-square foot fa­cil­ity in 2016, new-pa­tient growth is up 14%. That’s good, be­cause the space al­lows providers—across 37 spe­cial­ties—to see twice as many pa­tients as they could be­fore when they were spread out in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions around cam­pus.

A fair amount of the de­sign in­spi­ra­tion came, as it so of­ten does, from Ap­ple.

“We wanted to not only build a new build­ing but to cre­ate a new vi­sion for how we want to pro­vide health­care in the fu­ture,” said Mary John­son, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for the Univer­sity of Min­nesota Physi­cians. “We didn’t want to be lim­ited by cur­rent tech­nolo­gies, cur­rent work­flows and cur­rent payer mod­els.”

Ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign firm Can­nonDe­sign drew up M Health’s new fa­cil­ity with that in mind, cre­at­ing a space that can shift with tech­nol­ogy and work­flow. “We wanted to cre­ate the most flex­i­ble and adapt­able build­ing pos­si­ble,” said Michael Puk­szta, di­rec­tor of Can­nonDe­sign’s health prac­tice. “We wanted to cre­ate a build­ing that can ac­com­mo­date change.”

To that end, the clinic has no in­di­vid­ual physi­cian of­fices. In­stead, physi­cians share desks in open spa­ces that en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“In­stead of be­ing in my own lit­tle silo, right next to me I have all kinds of providers, so when I have ques­tions about my pa­tients, I can eas­ily ask,” said Dr. Bradley Ben­son, an in­ter­nal medicine physi­cian and pe­di­a­tri­cian at M Health. And if he can’t find a fel­low provider, he can con­sult what he jok­ingly calls the “ma­raud­ers’ map,” find­ing the per­son on screen much as a provider would find a pa­tient in the wait­ing ar­eas.

The clinic is open from morn­ing to night ev­ery week­day and from morn­ing to evenings on week­ends, up from the eight hours it pre­vi­ously op­er­ated each week­day. “Op­er­at­ing is much smoother when we are more evenly dis­trib­uted across 12 hours of the day,” John­son said. “It al­lows us to in­crease our through­put and pro­vide a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Pa­tients seem to be happy with the changes, John­son said: The clinic gets three times more com­pli­ments than com­plaints.

M Health’s bot­tom line is smil­ing, too. Af­ter the health sys­tem moved many of its clin­ics from hospi­tal-based re­im­burse­ments to a free-stand­ing model, it faced re­duced rev­enue.

“That re­ally re­quired us to look at how we could take costs out,” John­son said. The re­sult­ing op­er­a­tional changes spurred by the new clinic saved be­tween $60 mil­lion and $70 mil­lion in cap­i­tal costs.

New-pa­tient growth rose af­ter the clinic opened.

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