Today, when an athletic trainer at Mississippi State University has a question about the orthopaedic care of one of its athletes, instead of making a telephone call to schedule a visit and do other business, he or she can use a smartphone to send a question — or even a photograph of the athlete’s injury — straight to the orthopedist or nurse at the Columbus Orthopaedic Clinic and Outpatient Center.
The Columbus Orthopaedic Clinic has recently instituted a new smartphone app that provides quick and efficient interactions between patients, physicians, referring physicians, athletic trainers and home health nurses to confer about treatments, make appointments, find directions to the clinic or other facilities, check on test results, contact the billing department or connect to reliable links such as to American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery that provide information about the condition being treated.
“The MSU Athletic Department is loving this,” said Dr. Scott Jones, an orthopaedic surgeon with the clinic. “We are the team doctors for Mississippi State. Their athletic trainers have such incredible access with this that it is a big hit. With a big athletic department, including six or eight trainers, they are contacting our office literally every hour about this. This is an incredible tool for them. And we have only been live a few weeks. It gives them instant access to us, instead of finding time to call to ask a question or try to get a patient appointment. We have integrated everything about a person’s ortho care through this one site. It is easy, friendly, and it is really complete.”
“Our staff really appreciates the ease of using this app,” said Mary McLendon, director of sports medicine for MSU women’s basketball. “It gives us a way to quickly get prescription refills and schedule appointments. I personally like the links to information about common orthopaedic conditions. It is nice to be able to refer student-athletes and their parents to trusted resources on the web, since there is a lot of misinformation out there. We obviously think very highly of the care our doctors provide, and this is another way they are trying to improve the patient experience.”
Kara Roberts, a patient of Dr. Russell Linton, said the Columbus Orthopedic app for iPhones and Androids is a handy tool for setting up appointments or refilling meds.
“It also offers the contact info for the various related offices — no more digging through the phone book or searching online,” she said. “You can also access your patient portal and see X-rays and such. All in all, it is a handy app for patients.”
And it isn’t just for patients. The app is also a time saving, efficient tool for physicians, referring physicians, physical therapists, home health nurses, athletic trainers, and anyone else who interacts with patients.
“This could be the wave of the future,” Jones said.
“It is so common sense it is hard to believe we haven’t done it before. There are so many opportunities to help patients and our own efficiency and doctor referrals.”
The big thing in software and in business right now is mobile applications. People love the convenience of taking care of business and even keeping up with social media like Facebook.
“These mobile applications are just taking over everything,” Jones said. “If people have five minutes to get something done, they would rather use their smartphone to do it immediately instead of waiting until they get home.
“With the growth in mobile applications, we wanted to make it easier for anyone who interacts with us or our patients. This provides direct access to contact our office for anything from scheduling surgery to checking on insurance.
“You have direct access straight into the clinic with no wait.”
The clinic has a sophisticated electronic medical record system. The app can be used for patients to access their own records, and for providers to share information with other members of the treatment team.
“If you have an appointment today for a MRI scan, you can get on the app and see results,” Jones said. “It is your information, and you can view it.
“So there are just countless ways this is convenient to our patients. You can contact a nurse to ask a question about your medicine without getting on phone, and without waiting.”
The app also helps tremendously with office efficiency.
When the clinic recently installed a sophisticated fiber optic system a few months ago, they got 100 calls in five minutes. They had to get an automatic operator to sort calls.
This app will allow people to go straight in and access anyone at the clinic without going through the telephone.
Another advantage is the ease of record keeping. An example is if patient calls in and leaves a message that a medicine is making him itch, and another medicine is requested. The nurse answers the message, logs it into the patient chart, and then explains what is going to be done to resolve the problem. It cuts down on the amount of time needed for information to be put in the medical records.
“We can do it faster,” Jones said.
“We are making more efficient use of our time and your time. If you are a patient wanting a first time appointment, you can use this app to put in your information, and when you get in to the office, your chart is waiting for you. Anything we do to respect your time is going to help our customer satisfaction, and that is what it is all about. It also could absolutely cut down on inaccuracies.”
If there is a problem with an incision or swelling, there is an app where the therapist, trainer or home health nurse can take pictures of the problem, and shoot a picture straight to the chart and the physician. It makes it efficient reporting a problem with a patient.
The app even has a GPS function to give you directions to the clinic or other treatment centers.
There is also a special page for worker’s compensation patients and caseworkers that can be very useful.
It also allows physicians to communicate with their patients.
For example, if Jones wants to send out information about a free sports physical day, he can send out a message to everyone on his list.
“It allows social media advertising to my followers for free,” he said. “It saves me having to rent a billboard.”
How many people have smart phones? It is a huge number, and increasing every day. People without smartphones can get access through their home computer or the old fashioned way through the telephone.
“We have a phone line for those who don’t have a smartphone, but more and more people want to live this way,” Jones said.
“It is easy, seamless, respects their time better, and doesn’t cost a dime. We want people to walk out a satisfied customer. That is how we run our business and that is how we grow.”