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Leveraging digital engagement to improve patient outcomes.

As new digital patient-care platforms are integrated into the traditional healthcare system, there has been a direct correlation between increased patient engagement and better treatment outcomes.

These digital tools aid in self-managed education, improving direct communication with the care team, access to remote monitoring and testing, and better data for the physicians. The result of increased patient engagement on these platforms is linked to better pre-op and post-op outcomes with fewer patients being readmitted with complications. The access to such a robust and powerful patient management system has been a game-changer for The Surgical Center at Columbia Orthopaedic Group.

Improving patient outcomes

B. Bus Tarbox, MD, a sports medicine surgeon at Columbia Orthopaedic Group, was one of the first to bring this technology to his peers within their specialty. He discusses the impact it's had on his personal practice, crediting his improved patient outcomes and satisfaction to the onboarding of Force Therapeutics. This is one of few groundbreaking digital platforms linked to patient success and the preferred software for The Surgical Center at COG.

Force Therapeutics is one of the leaders in integrated telehealth solutions. This platform leverages clinical data to educate, communicate and monitor patients throughout their surgical process from pre-op to post-op. Force Therapeutics provides comprehensive care and results in better outcomes of surgical success, lowered rates of readmission, and increased satisfaction scores from patients across the board.

The Surgical Center at Columbia Orthopaedic Group started using the Force Therapeutics platform for total joint replacements in July 2020 and in a short time, patient engagement has increased 42%. This huge improvement has led to us expanding use into sports medicine and spine patients.

Dr. Tarbox spoke with Carly Behm of 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 in 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. It has 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'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, Force 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.

improving patient outcomes through data solutions

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

Dr. Tarbox: I think it will. Ultimately we will use this data to 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 its 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 from our partners. We have to demonstrate to our partners that 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, ultimately this is a good experience for everyone, especially our patients. I think as we move forward and include more uses of technology in the care of patients, this is one of those platforms to continue to get us there.

Dr. Tarbox's interview highlighted the benefits of empowering patients to be active participants in their care through advancing technology platforms. Force Therapeutics shares that "up to 90% of patient care happens outside the clinic" proving the importance of supporting patients both before and after their procedures. Here at The Surgical Center at COG, our surgeons and staff use video and daily digitized content, customized to each patient's recovery process, including after surgery. As we improve our patient/physician communications through digital platforms, our goal is to achieve better outcomes for our patient's treatment plan from start to finish.

patient benefits of improved digital care

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