“It definitely makes the [check-in] process faster. Our staff doesn’t have to walk out and look in the lobby. We aren’t waiting on the patient and trying to figure out who is who. We just page the buzzer and patient comes back when they are available.”
-Maegan Hamner, Marketing Coordinator
The Auburn University Medical Clinic sits on the school’s sprawling campus, deep in the rolling hills of East Alabama, about 120 miles southeast of Birmingham. In addition to serving Auburn’s 24,000-plus students, the clinic also provides health care services for the university’s administration, faculty, staff and even residents of the local community and visitors to the area.
Since 2005, the clinic has been run from a state-of-the-art facility that has 40 exam rooms, digitized x-rays and cutting-edge lab equipment that rivals the best primary care clinics in the industry for efficiency and design. It also includes a pharmacy operated by the AU School of Pharmacy, student counseling services and even a private massage therapist.
Suffice to say, it’s a busy place. Most days, the clinic’s dozen health care professionals tend to about 200 patients, give or take. And it’s getting busier all the time. According to marketing coordinator Maegan Hamner, visits are up about 20 percent in the past five years.
Pateint Paging System
AUMC shared the same challenges as any busy medical practice: Efficiently managing the constant flow of ailing patients through a busy reception area while remaining in compliance with privacy regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
HIPAA requires the strict protection of individuals’ health information. Even calling out a patient’s name or announcing it over a loudspeaker can be a violation in some cases if other conditions are not met.
Previously, the clinic used the old-fashioned patient communication method: holler out their first or last name and take them back to the treatment area.
Beyond guarding privacy, AUMC needed help in improving the patient experience by freeing patients from a crowded, central waiting area where they’d be in close proximity to other sick people.
AUMC adopted the LRS Adverteaser paging system. The Adverteaser system allows medical professionals to manage patients efficiently through silent, private communications. The devices allow clinics or doctor offices to notify guests faster and increase response rates while eliminating overhead paging or name callouts to ensure compliance with HIPAA. Adverteaser also includes a double-sided advertising panel that can accommodate customizable inserts, either to generate advertising revenue or simply to promote awareness of events or services. The paging devices are durable and feature rechargeable batteries that can last up to two days. Pagers can be used in vibrate, flash, or beep mode.
Improved Staff Efficiency
Hamner said the system has streamlined operations at AUMC. When a patient checks in, he or she is handed a pager, and a medical assistant types in the pager number that will be associated with that person’s chart. Hamner said the system helps guard patient privacy. Patients can roam up to about 50 yards from the check-in area. When it’s a patient’s time, assistants simply type in the two-digit pager number and they come around a corner to the clinical area. “It definitely makes the process faster,” she said. “Our staff doesn’t have to walk out look in the lobby. We aren’t waiting on the patient and not trying to figure out who is who. We just page the buzzer and patient comes back when they are available.”
Increased patient privacy – HIPAA compliance
Because no patient names are announced, the paging system allows AUMC to ensure HIPAA compliance. “No one knows what you’re call back for or where you go when you’re called back, so it helps a lot,” Hamner said.
Increased patient communication
The clinic uses the pagers’ advertising panel to get the word out about clinic services, such as the massage services, and to advertise its Facebook and Twitter account information.
The clinic has been using Adverteaser paging system now for 10 years and reports its 100 or so devices have held up well. Hamner said LRS has stood squarely behind its warranty when pagers need repair or replacing. “We very satisfied. LRS has been really good,” she said.
- Raised staff efficiency – less wasted time
- Ensured patient privacy – HIPAA compliance
- Improved patient experience – quieter, less chaotic
- Enhanced patient communication – advertising panel messaging
“It helps just to minimize the chaos really, and the noise,” Hamner said. “It streamlines everything for us.”
Next Up, Patient Surveys: Hamner said AUMC is now looking into the LRS survey tablet to replace the paper-and-pen patient satisfaction surveys currently in use. The paltry survey response (about 45 percent) and the time-consuming, inefficient process don’t yield useful results, she said. “Paper surveys are out of date,” she said. “It takes a lot of time to tally up. It’s not instantaneous and not friendly to our generation.”