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Medical Advantage Podcast Ep 14: Optimizing an EHR for FQHC Use

by | Jul 14, 2021

Ensuring that your Electronic Health Records (EHR) system is properly set up is a crucial first step for any healthcare organization seeking the best possible performance in billing, care quality, patient satisfaction, and other areas. But each practice and healthcare organization has different needs – and may benefit from a different, more fine-tuned EHR solution. 

FQHCs – Federally-Qualified Health Centers – are no exception. Due to their unique business model, financing structure, and patient population, FQHCs have a specialized set of needs, and require an EHR that can keep up. In this episode of the Medical Advantage podcast, we revisit a conversation with Caitlin Schlappi, a registered nurse at the Alcona Health Center FQHC in northern Michigan, and Julie Chiesa, an EHR and NextGen expert at Medical Advantage, to hear how our consultants worked alongside the Alcona Health Center staff to ensure they were getting the most out of their EHR system’s workflows and capabilities. 

This is the fourteenth episode in the Medical Advantage Podcast, where each we take time each episode to discuss the ideas and technologies changing healthcare, and the best practices your organization can take to stay productive and profitable. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to ensure you never miss an episode. 

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Key Takeaways from Podcast Episode 14 Optimizing an EHR for FQHC Use

We spoke with Caitlin Schlappi, RN who works in the Health Information Department at Alcona Health Center (ACH), an FQHC in Northern Michigan. ACH has 17 sites across Northern Michigan and offers medical and walk-in services, as well as dental, behavioral health care management, and according to Caitlin, “A little bit of everything and a little bit of everywhere.” 

Caitlin handles training, workflows, simplifying and streamlining templates at AHC and has been working with NextGen software since it went live ten months ago.  

ACH recognized the immediate need for a platform change when the COVID pandemic hit and telehealth became vitally important. However, they needed help integrating telehealth with their EHR, especially with documenting consent and coding on the superbill.  

Making the Move to the NextGen Platform 

Julie Chiesa, NexGen Consultant at Medical Advantage, assisted with the implementation. She noted that NextGen has an initial onboarding training program, but “when it’s done, it’s done.” For new users without a lot of expertise, the post-deployment learning curve can be daunting.   

When Julie arrived, she built a customized telehealth template that was specific to the needs of an FQHC. Caitlin stated that, “We have a lot of customization requests and Julie gave us this little telehealth pop-up where literally all the documentation for a telehealth visit could be done on this one little screen. And that was huge – no extra clicks.”  

“We were really struggling with what to do, we just didn’t know where to start and then Julie came in and saved the day with her telehealth template,” she added. 

Fortunately, Julie also was able to help flatten the learning curve. Caitlin explained, “A lot of the things in the template that Julie built mirror what’s located in other places of NextGen. So, it was more streamlined and there wasn’t a huge learning curve.” 

Streamlining Workflows with Templates, Forms, and Questionnaires 

ACH knew that it also needed help with coding, including attaching CPT codes per payer. Caitlin explained, “We have a G code that needs to go in for every Medicare claim. Julie showed us how to pull in that G code so it will go per payer. We can pick exactly what payer and this is all on the template, this isn’t in the background, this is manipulated by us so we can change this if it needs to be changed.” 

Julie also helped streamline consent for virtual visits with a simple checkbox during Zoom appointments. Caitlin shares that Julie was instrumental with other telehealth solutions.  

“We wanted certain codes to show on this telehealth template, again based on payer so they would only be available when the payer was Medicare, we thought we had it, but we couldn’t quite get it. We have a little joke when we get stuck, we always say 1-800-Call-Julie. We sent her a quick e-mail and sure enough, an hour later we were on the phone, and we had it all fixed up in minutes. So, she walked us through how to do it and it made sense. We were almost there but there are a lot of little specific things like that change on a monthly, sometimes it feels like daily basis, that are specific to us that Julie has helped with.” 

Accurate Coding and Documentation with NextGen 

Much to the relief of Caitlin and her team, Julie was able to help ACH in other areas as well, including commercial or workers comp and Medicare.  

“We loaded the financial class to load the background of the template and that’s how it talks to the template and lets it know OK when I click this, make this happen when I click that, make that happen. We’ve been able to make it very specific to the Medicare payers, as well as being able to send over the appropriate modifiers when necessary because obviously some payers you know require a 95, some payers don’t. We’ve been able to program it all the way down, so again at the end user level. Doctors just click, I did a telehealth visit, they’re doing their documentation, they’re clicking. It was 15 to 20 minutes and they’re sending that code over and everything’s happening in the background that Caitlin and her team want to happen.” 

Best Advice for EHR Optimization 

According to Julie, the best advice is the simplest: ask for help. She said, “People are so receptive to learning, they really want to know the product and I am of the school of teaching folks how to fish. I think we at Medical Advantage want to meet people where they are. We don’t want to come in and say do this, this and this and then they just kind of answer.” 

Julie added, “In the case of Alcona, they’re like a perfect client because they came to us with a list, they know what they need, they sort of know how to do it, but they want some advice on how to do it. I find the collaboration between us really is very special and I love clients that come in with the mission and want to understand how to do it and not just what to do.” 

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