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Specialists on Call:

Healthy Challenge

An emergency telemedicine consultation provider helps power physician-patient interactions.


Federal healthcare reform has presented both opportunities and challenges for medical providers.

"Hospitals are seeing decreases in their reimbursements in addition to shortages in physician specialists across the country," explains Kathleen Plath, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Specialists on Call, a Boston-based provider of emergency telemedicine consultations to community hospitals across the United States. "If a hospital can't get specialists to a patient on time, that patient ends up sitting in the emergency department [waiting] room, which negatively impacts patient satisfaction…patient safety and quality of care."

Physician workflows and hospital operations also can be affected by the strain of too much demand and not enough supply. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges Center for Workforce Studies, the nation will face a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians and 46,000 surgeons and medical specialists over the next decade. Couple that with a U.S. Census Bureau finding that the number of Americans over the age of 65 will increase by 36 percent in the next decade, as well as the fact that one-third of physicians will retire over the next 10 years, and the stage has been set for a medical showdown.

This is where Specialists on Call steps in—supplying remote emergency telemedicine consultations to attending physicians in hospitals through videoconferencing technology supplied by Specialists. Specialists manages the entire process, from the hospital calls it fields through a contact center to scheduling and post-consultation reports triggered back to the medical facility.

"Hospitals realize the value of our service," Plath says. "The number of physicians coming out of medical school is decreasing, and [many of the] ones who are coming out…aren't able to take calls at the hospital or get to the patient within fifteen minutes."

Without a doubt, these conditions are behind Specialists' marked growth of more than 100 percent in the past year and the evolving need for a CRM system to streamline its processes.

The Solution

When Specialists on Call first deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 4.0 in 2009, the company counted 300 patient consultations per month. That number rose to more than 1,500 patient interactions each month when it upgraded its system last June to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.

The company was able to cut its install time from six months to 90 days, and saved $200,000 by forgoing the need to acquire a separate clinical management system.

For physicians who use the platform, much of the benefit lies "in the workflows that we create for them and the ease with which they can obtain key clinical information about each account," Karen Deli, executive vice president of operations for Specialists on Call, says. "We have built a number of quality assurance features into the system for the physicians, such as forcing a stop or a no-go, so that mandatory data fields are completed.

"The system is so simple to use and mirrors work flow so well that many of our physicians…populate the fields [in] real time—thus increasing their efficiency while maintaining quality," Deli adds. As a result of the scalability of the system and a reduction in duplication of information, Specialists noticed a 275 percent reduction in cost per consult.

The company has also used Dynamics CRM 2011 within sales operations. "We have eight to ten regional vice presidents out in the field across the country all utilizing Microsoft for their contact data, building a database of all the hospitals we've spoken to for reporting on the front end, for marketing, and for outreach," Plath says.

Since its formation in 2005, Specialists on Call has conducted more than 50,000 on-demand consultations. The company began with six employees and now has 60 physicians and more than 200 hospital clients in 21 states. Up next is an expansion of its clinical areas of service beyond neurology and psychiatry to a tele-ICU program for dermatology, neonatology, and orthopedics.

While the measurable ROI is impressive, it's safe to say that the improved overall medical experience for both patients and doctors is an added return on investment.

"We are saving the hospital anywhere from one-half to one-and-one-half [days] in length of stay, so it's fairly substantive," Plath says.

Real Results

  • Increased the number of patient consultations per month from 300 to more than 1,500.
  • Saved $200,000 by not having to acquire a separate clinical management system.
  • Noticed a 275 percent reduction in cost per consult.
  • Improved the overall medical experience for patients and doctors.

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