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Accenture helps University Hospitals transform consumer access for high performance.
Consumer satisfaction is critical to any health care organization’s success. As the first step in the health care revenue cycle, consumer access is considered important because it sets the tone for the consumer experience and revenue cycle outcomes. Enhancements to intake processes can lead to improved financial sustainability and allow health care facilities to differentiate themselves from competitors.
The goals of developing a consumer access strategy include the following:
Achieving these goals helps to create a differentiated consumer access solution and a positive patient experience.
University Hospitals, located in Northeast Ohio and one of the United States' leading academic health care systems, faced the challenge of improving consumer access to improve patient volume, making better use of existing physician capacity and boosting system revenue.
Accenture was engaged at the outset of the effort and worked collaboratively with University Hospitals from initial strategic analysis, through the delivery of a detailed road map and work plan and the implementation of identified improvements.
University Hospitals needed to address a number of operational challenges to remain an industry leader, improve consumers’ experience and maintain profitability in a highly competitive and dynamic market.
Over time, the methods through which appointments were scheduled had become fragmented and overly complex. One key challenge was addressing obstacles consumers faced around accessing University Hospitals’ physicians, as well as other services provided by the system.
Leadership recognized there were opportunities to improve consumer access, particularly the opportunity to more effectively use physician capacity. Several attempts had been made in the past to address the issues, but with unsatisfactory results.
“The difference in this program over our past attempts is how Accenture brought various constituencies of the organization together to identify, quantify and ultimately solve the problem as a cohesive team,” explains Maria Kamenos, vice president, Patient Access Services. “Their expertise and facilitation was key in breaking down internal barriers and finding common ground, which is the best way to make lasting change. Accenture also brought in a physician advisor, who worked closely with our physician leadership to bring them on board and gain their support.”
“It has been a pleasure to watch and work closely with the team from Accenture on our UH Access Project,” explains Peter Brumleve, chief marketing officer. “In addition to the very granular plan they put together, I have found them to be very collaborative with strong listening skills and a focus on execution. Additionally, they have been very flexible during a frequently changing transition plan over to UH staff. A very positive ‘can-do’ attitude has been their hallmark.”
Accenture helped provide a structured approach to addressing consumer access system wide at University Hospitals. The project was carried out in three phases:
Phase 1: Consumer access strategy. Accenture and University Hospitals stakeholders met regularly to develop a three-year consumer access strategy, business requirements to help achieve this strategy and initiatives to execute on the strategy. Accenture also helped identify some of the key root-cause issues, and proposed solutions to help address these problems, including a three-year vision and road map for 18 initiatives, a work plan and a high-level business case that made “the case for change.” These contributions better enabled University Hospitals’ leadership team to understand performance variations and prioritize improvement goals.
To gain better insight into the root-cause access issues at the outset, Accenture engaged more than 300 University Hospitals stakeholders through in-person meetings and working sessions, analyzed more than 1,600 employee survey responses, shadowed schedulers and conducted “secret shopping” appointment calls to six hospitals.
Phase 2: Mobilization, piloting and value tracking. The team refined the business case, developed a value-realization model and mobilized an Accenture and UH execution team that developed detailed work plans for the program. This team conducted pilots of higher-priority initiatives that included point-of-service programs, direct scheduling and discharge scheduling reengineering, and virtual concierge.
In addition, after analyzing physician appointment volumes and capacity across 15 specialty departments, numerous other opportunities were also identified and implemented to improve appointment availability. Consumer and provider satisfaction were further enhanced by streamlining and reorganizing the system’s scheduling department.
Phase 3: Execution. This final phase involves the continued execution of the 18 initiatives in addition to a thorough transition of activities to University Hospitals. These activities will help confirm that University Hospitals is equipped with the tools and resources needed to continue driving the initiatives forward over the next two years.
With Accenture’s help, University Hospitals is making progress in achieving high performance in consumer access.
“I found the Accenture team to be exceptional in assessing the opportunities, prioritizing the initiatives, engaging the operational leaders in a plan and timeline, delivering the outcomes and transitioning the accountability going forward to the operational leadership,” says University Hospitals’ Cathy Koppelman, RN, NSN, chief nursing officer and patient experience officer. “I was especially impressed with the outcome monitoring. I would highly recommend this company.”
Initiatives completed to date have helped to reduce system leakage significantly by helping consumers easily schedule their appointments at the site of service. The pilot sites successfully scheduled a large percentage of appointments at checkout and at discharge that supported appropriate referrals to the system.
Furthermore, program efforts contributed to a reduction in Access Center call abandonment rates from 10 to 5 percent. Appointment cancellations, bumps and no-shows have also declined. Moreover, consumers have expressed great satisfaction with the new services, rating point-of-service scheduling at checkout at 4.9 out of 5.0 and the virtual concierge scheduling a 4.7 out of 5.0.
Several factors contributed to the success of the initial stage of this major program, especially the committed support of the organization’s entire C-suite who met with the Accenture team every two weeks, as well as the 300-plus University Hospitals stakeholders who provided input and ongoing support. Accenture additionally brought to bear its well-established program management and change management methodology, seasoned staff with extensive industry experience and rigorous delivery execution experience.
Ultimately, the program is designed to better enable University Hospitals to increase scheduling efficiency, improve the consumer experience and enable high-quality care. These efforts will undoubtedly place University Hospitals in a strong position to continue its mission: “To Heal. To Teach. To Discover.”
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