How AZ Maria Middelares increased their departmental capacity by 50%
Through the creation and implementation of a new care pathway, AZ Maria Middelares, a forward-thinking hospital in Ghent, Belgium, has undergone a digital transformation across multiple departments with the support of Awell Health.
With innovative pathways already in effect for the prostate cancer, children’s allergy, and gastric bypass clinics, AZMM is now entering phase 2 of its pain centre pathway, expanding from pre-consultation care to post-denervation therapy follow-up.
Since October 2020, 400 patients have been included in phase 1 of the pathway — and, as a result, the pain centre’s Quality Coordinator has reported that 15 minutes have been saved during all but the most complex of appointments. That means that the department is now treating an additional patient each day, representing a 50% increase in departmental capacity per session.
High-Tech With a Human Touch
The aim of AZMM’s pain centre is to reduce patients’ pain and improve their overall quality of life. That aim may be achieved through drug therapy, interventional pain treatments, or, in the case of chronic pain problems, attention paid to the psychosocial impact — with a focus on reintegration into everyday life. As there are various causes of pain, the treatments offered are diverse and differ from one patient to the next.
When reflecting on its digital transformation, it’s important to note that the pain centre was working — and continues to work — closely with other departments, including physical medicine, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, internal medicine, and psychiatry. Clinical psychologists and social workers were also often called upon from the community. Therefore, in order to improve efficiency, all of those departments had to work together synergistically.
“Do I Need to Answer This Again?”
When it comes to pain, the need for efficient care pathways is felt wholeheartedly by patients. Clinicians routinely ask a multitude of questions to patients regarding their pain: location, duration, character, radiation, etc. Due to a lack of centralised data within a single EMR system, each subsequent clinician on a patient’s journey (particularly at different sites) is likely to repeat the same questions, requiring the same answers again and again. This process and duplication of work takes up much of the consultation, removing time for patients to share concerns or ask questions of their own.
Building the Solution: A Digital Care Pathway
The first phase of the care pathway started in October 2020, with a new pathway to streamline the pre-consultation process. Using Awell’s platform, different team members involved in the patient consultation process worked together to identify the most efficient workflow and began implementing it with ease.
In the new care pathway, the pre-consultation process was initiated remotely up to 10 days in advance by nurses or the admin team. The process involved sending up to nine questionnaires to the patient to complete before meeting with their doctor, covering areas like pain history, anxiety, pain scale, and quality of life.
“We have made several improvements to the care we provide and our patients’ experience, thanks to our partnership with Awell. For example, since using a digital validated anxiety questionnaire, patients are able to be referred to a psychologist earlier on when there’s an indication for need,” the pain centre explained.
Through Awell’s platform, all information is automatically collated into a report, which is then stored in the patient’s electronic health record. That information can then be viewed by the clinical team before each appointment to assess the best next step for each patient, increasing the overall efficiency of the department.
Increase in departmental capacity
Thanks to the digital care pathway they were able to shave off up to 15 minutes per consultation. This allowed them to increase departmental capacity by 50%. These early results will be further investigated by the team but show the immediate impact of implementing a digital care pathway.
- Clinical teams have felt more prepared, and have been better equipped to deliver more efficient consultations
- There’s been a clear positive enhancement to clinician-patient relationships
- There’s been a greater understanding of each individual patient by clinicians
- Patients have felt more seen, more listened to, and better supported
Better Care For Patients
Steffi, the Quality Coordinator for the pain centre at AZMM, was responsible for leading the creation and implementation of the care pathway using Awell’s platform. After the pre-consultation pathway was successful, receiving positive feedback from both clinicians and patients, Steffi and AZMM decided to initiate phase 2.
With phase 2, any patients referred to denervation therapy receive follow-up questionnaires at the 6 week, 3 month, and 6 month checkpoints, allowing their care teams to get a full picture of their mental health, physical progress, work status, and quality of life.
Since phase 2 has only just started, there are no immediate plans for phase 3 — but, with the pain centre’s guiding philosophy of continuously seeking to improve their care, Steffi’s confident that new innovations to the pathway aren’t too far away.
“In the pain centre, we discuss patients together, as a multidisciplinary team. But we often felt that we’d lose patients somewhere along the way. With the digital care pathway, we can now monitor patients from home — which means we reduce the chance of losing them during their patient journey, and that we always know exactly how they’re doing,” – Steffi told us, outlining one of the chief benefits of the program.
In time, the pain centre’s intention is to develop a transmural care pathway where the patient’s general practitioner is also kept informed of the details surrounding their health status and care. Plus, as Steffi notes, AZMM is also taking strides to fully adopt a Value Based Healthcare outlook.
“Going forward, we’d like to investigate which therapies have better outcomes for a patient’s ability to return to work, for example; by knowing exactly which therapies have a positive effect on outcomes and which do not, we’ll be able to consistently provide the best evidence-based therapy for each patient,” Steffi explains.
It’s clear that the pain centre, and AZMM as a whole, are determined to do what it takes to improve the care they provide to their patients. With two phases already enacted and more soon to enter the pipeline, Steffi and her team can’t wait to see the impact that’ll be felt by their colleagues and patients alike. And us at Awell can’t wait to see it either.