Small Businesses using tech to make health care more efficient

I hope you have been enjoying reading about our 10 finalists of the Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award which we have been sharing.  Both of our next finalists are in the healthcare industry and I wanted to share their stories.  The use of technology to make health care more efficient is especially topical, and here are two health care companies showing how it can be done well. 

image Acadia Foot & Ankle, P.A. is headquartered in Bangor, Maine, and is a three-physician foot and ankle medical and surgical treatment center.  They have been in business for 23 years and have eight employees.  Their investments in IT have revolutionized the way they are able to help patients, saved thousands of dollars a year and helped them grow the practice.

The Acadia team uses three dimensional scanners to take impressions of patients’ feet and is able to submit the results over the Internet to a cad-cam manufacturing process for the production of orthoses.  The orthoses that patients need can be in production within minutes of the scans being done. For patients that means receiving those orthoses in less than two weeks – before the scanner, they had to wait up to six weeks. It also reduces errors and improves quality. 

The team is also using digital x-rays to take images they need which both allows rapid transfer of the images to other practitioners but more importantly, patients can leave the office with a CD that has their x-rays and they are exposed to less radiation during the x-ray process.

And finally, the team has invested in a VPN to connect their office network and a computer based answering system – which means the doctors can both be easily located in the event of an emergency, and have access to the patient data they need online – all without carrying a pager.

image Bellingham Internal Medicine in Bellingham, Washington, has also made some smart investments in technology that are paying off in terms of business efficiency and patient service and results.  The four-physician practice with seven employees has been able to continue providing high-quality primary care internal medicine through a difficult economic environment because of the efficiencies they have realized.

What I really liked about this company is they have already implemented a completely paperless medical office.  Each exam room has Internet access allowing doctors to use the Internet for patient education.  The doctors can also use cell phones to dial into the office computer system and forward critical patient records and important tests, like EKGs, to emergency rooms when needed.  They can also access the results of lab tests or x-rays within minutes of a patient’s test.  They even use instant messaging to communicate between exam rooms, the nurses’ station and the front desk.

All in all what that means for patients is the Bellingham team is focused on patient care and not filling out and managing paper records. The numbers show this – a typical medical office has 2.74 full time equivalent support employees per medial provider. Bellingham’s use of technology means they run efficiently with 1.25 full time equivalent support staff per provider, and they never have to schedule more than two patient appointments per hour.

Congratulations to Acadia Foot & Ankle and Bellingham Internal Medicine!

About the Author: Erik Dithmer