How this orthopedic ASC leveraged digital engagement to improve patient outcomes

B. Bus Tarbox, MD, a sports medicine surgeon at Columbia (Mo.) Orthopedic Group said his patients' outcomes and satisfaction have improved since onboarding the Force Therapeutics patient engagement platform.

The center started using the platform for total joint replacements in July and later added on sports medicine and spine physicians.

He spoke with Becker's ASC Review about how the platform's educational tools and self-reporting tools have helped empower patients.

Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.

Question: Tell me about this engagement platform and what prompted you to start using it

Dr. Bus Tarbox: There's this discussion that we will be reimbursed based on our outcomes, and it's been several years where this discussion has come up out of Washington. So as part of that preparation we talked about how to do that at our group. There were all these different ways to get patient-reported outcomes so we can have data available for insurance companies.

We reviewed about 10 or 12 different companies that do reports online and chose Force Therapeutics. What it has done is it's given us the opportunity to engage and empower our patients to help take care of themselves and help us become better physicians. Now what we have done with some of our data is engage insurance companies and help with our contracting and our reimbursement. We now can prove our outcomes and say "Here's our outcomes, and we are better than the guy down the street."

Q: How is patient data collected?

Dr. Tarbox: It said it's much like when you go to a dinner at Chili's and they give you the survey. When they bring me the bill, they ask to fill out the survey.

However, the difference here is that the patients will get these emails and fill out these surveys over the course of the next one or two years at regular intervals that we set up based on their procedure. I'm asking them to participate in their care and make us better physicians.

On the flip side of that, Focus Therapeutics has online videos. When the patients get these emails, they're getting videos that we developed and input into their protocols. They're able to watch these videos and do their post-operative exercises on their own, which ultimately helps us get better results because the patients are moving their joints quicker.

Q: Has the platform helped positively affect revenue and reimbursements?

Dr. Tarbox: I think it will. Ultimately we will use this data and allow us to go out and do what we've been very successful doing here: direct physician to employer contracting. We have gone to large self-insured corporations and said, "You are self-insured and we would like to be your orthopaedic provider and here are our outcomes." That allows us to develop bundles with the patient reported outcomes. This also helps us in negotiating with the insurance companies as we have our data to demonstrate our outcomes.

Q: What advice do you have for other orthopedic practices who want to bolster their patient engagement?

Dr. Tarbox: The one thing I think is very important is to do the due diligence. We looked at several different platforms, and they're all good. Each one has their own kind of niche, and we had to decide what is going to be the best for the personality of our group. Once we identified that, we had to get the buy-in to my partners. What we have to demonstrate to our partners is this really does not add any extra work. I spend maybe one extra minute telling my patients how important this is to us and to them. It was a very easy transition, and it's just to get the buy-in from the partners that this ultimately is a good experience for everyone, especially our patients. I think as we move forward and you look at more uses of technology in the care of patients, this is one of those platforms to continue to get us there.

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