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Encounter Optimization at Southcentral Foundation

Encounter Optimization at Southcentral Foundation

With health care organizations under increasing pressure to reduce costs, one area that is worth examination is scheduling and logistics. Ensuring that appointments are handled as efficiently as possible can result in cost savings to an organization. However, time spent by the workforce is not the only thing that should be considered; customer-owner time is equally important as workforce time. With that in mind, Southcentral Foundation is pursuing a new strategy for scheduling that seeks to balance convenience for the customer-owner with efficiency and cost: encounter optimization.


Previously, SCF would practice “max-packing,” a system where if a customer-owner needed multiple things from the system, SCF would try to fit them all in when a provider appointment happened. This would be efficient for SCF, but it had the potential to create long appointments for the customer-owner, and could also put time pressure on the workforce. Encounter optimization takes a different approach, where SCF looks at each customer-owner need and determines the optimal approach to address each one.


For example, consider a scenario where a customer-owner needs labs, a blood pressure check, and an injection to manage their condition. All of these items are relatively straightforward and can be handled by a CMA, and in fact the CMA would likely be the person who did them even during a provider encounter. In a case like this, SCF has determined that there is no need for the customer-owner to see the provider; that appointment would require time from the provider as well as additional time from the customer-owner.


Instead, SCF creates a separate schedule where the customer-owner comes in to see the CMA. The items the customer-owner needs (described above) are outlined by the customer-owner’s case manager and signed off on by their provider. The CMA handles the labs, the blood pressure check, and the injection. This is a faster encounter and does not use up provider time. SCF can then call the customer-owner with the lab results and let them know if anything else needs to be done.


This process saves time, money, is more convenient for the customer-owner, and it preserves access for provider appointments. And it still allows for SCF’s versatile Integrated Care Teams to bring in multiple providers and specialists when it is needed. By practicing encounter optimization, SCF is working to make the encounters customer-owners do have more timely, optimized, and efficient.


Interested in finding out more about SCF’s powerful and versatile system of integrated primary care? Sign up for the Nuka Conference now! The conference features sessions from SCF’s subject matter experts on integrated care teams, integrated behavioral health, workforce development, improvement and innovation, trauma-informed care, and much more. If you have any questions about the conference, or SCF’s Nuka System of Care, feel free to contact the SCF Learning Institute.

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