Optimizing the Patient Journey

How do you develop a patient journey? Optimizing your patient journey can help you close gaps in care, establish preventative routines that can help your patients stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and create the best possible patient experience. Join Renae Rossow, VP of Marketing at Therapy Brands, as she interviews healthcare industry leaders. Today’s guest, Ryan Camlin, President of Alta Pediatrics, walks us through how he optimizes the patient journey for the patients of his practice.

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Renae Rossow:
Hello everyone, this is Renee Rossa. Welcome to today’s episode of Think Therapy, Optimizing the Patient Journey. We’re gonna discuss today the founding and growth of AltaPediatrics, an occupational speech and sensory integration therapy practice founded in 2020 by Kimberly Hurley. On today’s show, we welcome Ryan Kamlin, the president of Alta Pediatrics, who has locations in Scotch Plains and Florham Park, New Jersey, as well as contracting with private and public schools to provide services on site. Welcome to the show today, Ryan.

Ryan Camlin:
Hey Renee, thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Renae Rossow:
Yeah, so why don’t we get started with you giving us a little bit about Alta Pediatrics as it is today, what your missions are, what your goals are, and anything else that you’d like us to know.

Ryan Camlin:
Yeah, good. No, I think you kind of covered a little bit in the intro. So we’re a pediatric occupational therapy and speech therapy practice. So we really decided to focus in on that area. And I’ve seen a lot of demand and growth in that space. So, you know, like you mentioned, we now have two locations. So it’s transitioning from a single location practice to now a multi-location practice in terms of just our overall footprint. So we’ve gone from really where Kimberly was this whole person treating to now having, you know, multiple therapists that were managing both in occupational therapy and speech therapy, and then also a front office staff as well. And then just looking to continue to grow, right, both in terms of the new location that we opened up in Florham Park, that second location, and then also looking at, you know, where can we add additional subspecialties. in pediatric.

Renae Rossow:
Right. So looking back to 2020, what was the catalyst, if you will, for Kimberly founding the organization and bringing it to where it is today?

Ryan Camlin:
Yeah, sure. I mean, if you look at, you know, when that happened, right, 2020. So Kim was working at a corporate practice, you know, large. I think they’ve got somewhere between like 50 and 75 offices. And when COVID happened, you know, they kind of immediately furloughed all of their therapy staff. And so Kim was one of those that was furloughed. And I think when you go through an experience like that and kind of the collective experience that we all went through, you really reframe. you know, what do you want to do with your career? What’s the kind of experience that you want to have? And she didn’t really feel like she can have the treatment experience that she wanted to have and the patient relationship into corporate practice. You know, in a practice like that, you’re really driven by volume, driven by numbers. Sometimes you’re treating multiple patients at the same time. So, you know, as part of this practice and really as part of our mission, we really wanted to have a more patient-centered approach and be able to, you know, really focus more so on the patient, have time in between patients, have really a one-to-one patient experience. And in order to do that, she felt like she really had to have her own practice and launch into her own private practice. So that shift, right? I mean, obviously the event of being furloughed, but also kind of thinking through, what does she want kind of her treatment experience to look like? What does she want her patient relationship experience to look like? And so, when you have your own practice, you can really control that, right? And you can control, you know, how that’s going to look day in and day out. And you know, it started real simple. It started as a home-based practice. So she was actually going into people’s homes and treating at that time. And you know, from there, started to kind of find our footing and then open and expand it into a physical location. or the practice. And we’ve gone through multiple pivots as well, right? Over time, I think anytime you launch something, you kind of have to find, like, what is your niche, right? Both in terms of the location and even the area of specialty.

Renae Rossow:
Yeah, very interesting. You know, it’s so true when you say she wanted to be in charge of her own experience of how her interaction with the patient was. My own son is in medicine and when he was in medical school, he was certain he wanted to be an ER doctor. And he would be so excited by all the trauma of it and it was just fascinating to him. And a few months into it, he realized he never got to understand what happened to the patient ER and so he pivoted and now he’s in a completely different field of medicine and because he wanted to Know the patient and what the outcome was and experience it So I believe 100% in that approach of owning your own Experience on the day to day so kudos to you and Kimberly for making that decision You know, I understand as you begin to grow like most organizations you start feeling those growth pains So tell us a little bit some of your experience as growth began to happen and some of the challenges you faced.

Ryan Camlin:
Yeah, and like I mentioned in that last question, just as we kind of started to grow the business, establish ourselves, when it started out, we were trying to do multiple things related to occupational therapy. So we were doing hand therapy, we were also doing pediatrics, we opened up an office in a certain location, and kind of what we found is, there was a lot more demand in pediatrics, so we really started to say, let’s become more focused, right? And then we ended up even moving the office really just five miles away, but kind of making those big changes, you know, we found finally the right location and the right area of focus. And I think, you know, those are probably the most important things, honestly, and then everything else I would say is kind of tactical going things, right? So the one decision we made early on was to go in network with insurance. And I knew when that’s kind of gone through that experience, I mean, it takes time, it takes a lot of effort. And then when we got in network, we started to see a really tremendous volume of demand. And I think part of it is in our area, in that specialty, there’s not as many in network providers. So it was great that we were driving volume into the practice, but then you have to manage that, right? So then we started hiring staff, we have to get the right space and come up with all the different processes around the business. So And then as you start to grow in that respect, you then start to look at profitability. So within this model, it’s great that we have all the staff, we have all this patient volume, but are we doing it in a way that’s profitable and in a way that’s sustainable? And that’s when we actually made another kind of major pivot to say, okay, now we’re going to shift from being a network provider to actually going out of network and being a cash pay provider. And that’s a change that’s really helped to make this a profitable and sustainable business and get back to that original mission that Kim had, which was not to be a high volume shop, right? To have really that one-to-one interaction with patients. And I think we’ve done it in a way that, you know, we still bill on behalf of our patients, for our network. So it’s a bit of a nuance, but, you know, rather than kind of contracting with an in-network rate, we’ll actually submit a request to our patient’s insurance. They’ll bill. and get reimbursed from their insurance company, essentially. So it gives them somewhat of a benefit, but at least it gets us to profitability. And that experience created other challenges too, which is kind of on the back end. Now that you’re taking payment upfront, how do you create an experience where you’re able to efficiently collect? So one of the things we started to see is cashflow challenges. And that’s kind of one of the tiebacks to white fusion, which is one of the things we really liked was the… kind of how efficient it was for us to be able to schedule patients, check them out and take payments and store a credit card on file. So one of the big changes we made is to say, you know, we actually moved, I want to say now 90% plus of our patients are actually on a card on file. So that really helped to address our cash flow challenges. So now we’re in a position where we’ve got, you know, the right location, we feel like we’ve got the right focus. And we’ve got the right business model that’s going to be profitable and be able to sustain us. And so now it’s just kind of continuing to build on that foundation and continue on a growth journey from there. But, you know, it’s been, if you look at kind of where we are, it’s been a three-year process to get to that place.

Renae Rossow:
Can I take you back to your answer there and ask you specifically what about Fusion made it the right solution for that pain point when you were trying to address those inefficiencies in revenue management and things?

Ryan Camlin:
Yeah, so we were on a platform already for using a… primarily using that to take notes, to manage a schedule, and we then went out into the market and kind of looked at a multitude of solutions. And really what it kept the future, there’s just the overall package that we really liked, you know, the ability to tie in the payments into that. We use it for invoice billing as well for that 10% of patients where we, you know, don’t have a And then the ability to have a portal as well. Because with a small practice, I mean the way that we kind of see a competitive advantage for us is to digitize as much of the process as possible. So all of our patient intake forms are online for little PDFs. We leverage the patient portal to push out notes. And then we do all of our payments essentially with a card on file, send out invoices via email. So kind of, you know. back to kind of thinking about the patient journey, really everything from that initial awareness, right? How are they finding us? We’ve invested a lot in our digital presence, all the way down to pre-appointment, that onboarding experience, right? How much of that can we make digital? And then post-appointment, when we’re pushing out notes, when maybe we’re asking for patient satisfaction, we wanna digitize and optimize as much of that process as possible.

Renae Rossow:
Yeah, I find it to be true that for any practice growing, that creating that, there’s two pillars to really being able to grow and see success. And one of them being that marketing presence that you talked about, the digital presence where people can find you, but the other one really being operationally more efficient so that you can see those areas of growth and better operations. that type of efficiency are you seeing an influx even more now that not only are you monetarily efficient but you’re able to see more patients than you might have been without those efficiencies in place?

Ryan Camlin:
I don’t know about so much being able to see more patients, but I think it does help to improve the patient experience. Because the more efficient you are in your front office and your back office, those broken processes show up in a bad experience for the patients. If we’re not doing what we need to do to get you the forms that we need in a timely fashion, if we’re not sending you appropriate reminders, if we’re not doing what we need to do. to get that out of network insurance billing, billing straightened out, right? All those things create a negative experience for the patient. So I look at it even more so from a customer experience standpoint.

Renae Rossow:
that we sense.

Ryan Camlin:
I think the efficiency play is probably, just a personnel factor, right? We’ve got really, one kind of full-time person that’s able to manage the volume in a number of areas, right? So they’re- So we have a patient care coordinator who’s responsible for dealing with new patient inquiries, managing the onboarding process, managing the patient billing, and then the insurance billing as well. So it’s a really wide purview, right? But because we’ve got all these tools in place, you can have one person manage all that volume, at least as of right now. So that’s really how I see those tools benefiting us right now.

Renae Rossow:
Yeah, that makes total sense. And so that leads me to my next question. When you mentioned patient experience, tell me about what you’re focusing on the second half of this year and how that relates.

Ryan Camlin:
Yeah, so I think back to that patient journey, back to creating that digital experience, I mean, I do see, as I look at parts of that, I kind of break those down into different component parts. When I think about that kind of awareness consideration phase in the upfront marketing, I do think that there’s more that we could be doing to, for one, nurture that patient. So today it’s very transactional. Someone… maybe come to our website, view some of our content, and do they call us or submit a request? Maybe, right? But we don’t do a whole lot to maybe bring them back to the site. So I think there’s some things that we can do there. You think of retargeting through social, that we could be like. doing some more micro conversions to things like newsletter sign-ups through content marketing. And then trying to establish more of a personal connection, really through video. I think we’ve really underutilized video as a medium, where, especially for a local business, small business, you could see kind of how Kimberly interacts with the patients, right, how the other therapists interact with the patients. Can we take that experience and really make that into an online? that we can use in that awareness consideration phase. So that’s certainly an area that we’re looking at. And then on the kind of post-appointment side, can we be doing more to measure patient satisfaction? So both in terms of patient satisfaction surveys, driving more reviews, patient testimonials, patient spotlights, and then of course, using various mediums for that as well. So that’s really how I’m thinking about the second half. What I think that will ultimately do for us is it’s going to improve our conversions, drive new patient acquisition, and then improve our reputation, which kind of furthers that. So it’s really creating that flywheel cycle in that patient journey, more from a marketing standpoint that we’re really going to be focused on over the next six months.

Renae Rossow:
Terrific. So talk to us about the advice that you would give other providers across the U.S. who might be considering opening their own practice.

Ryan Camlin:
Yeah, I mean, there’s a whole number of areas. I think when you’re thinking about starting your own practice, a key thing is going to be really getting your name out there, right? Because if you don’t have patience, you don’t have revenue. And doing it, and there’s multiple ways to do that, right? If you’re going to be serving a local community, kind of look at, what are those organizations in the community? Is there a local chamber of commerce? Are there other providers that you could be networking with and kind of building those relationships? We built a lot through even social media communities, local moms groups, things like that. So it’s really starting to get your name out there. And that might even mean going in network with insurance because yes, it was a difficult experience to go through over the course of the year, but it really got our name out there in the community. So I still think it’s a valuable thing if you’re just starting out to build that reputation and build that word of mouth. And then, you’ve got to be, I think, especially if you’re kind of small, starting out, limited budget, you know, cost conscious, there’s ways to really bootstrap things and do things in a really cost efficient manner. And then you can start to scale organically, right? And that’s really what we’ve done. We haven’t had to bring in a lot of outside cash to really run this practice. I mean, it’s really been kind of building it up step by step in that regard. And then over time, start to put the systems… So you’ll move from, at least in our experience, from a question of how do you get those patients in the door? How do you get that volume to them? How do you improve profitability? How do you improve efficiency? And then how do you start to remove yourself from the business and put the right people in place but still continue to deliver the same level of services? So those will be future challenges. but certainly ones that will come up, even in the early stages. And my last word of advice is go for it. I think it’s been a great experience overall. It’s the ability for you to manage your own schedule and then create the type of environment that you want to create so that you can deliver the patient experience that you really wanna deliver without anyone else telling you here’s how it’s going.

Renae Rossow:
fantastic. Well Ryan, that brings me to the close of my questions today. I appreciate your time so much. Thank you so much for being with us and I wish you and Kimberly the best.

Ryan Camlin:
Thank you, Renai. It’s been great to be here. Really appreciate it.

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