How Zotec developed a scheduling system and streamlined the vaccination experience for millions of Indiana residents

During the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative companies have identified new opportunities and leveraged their capabilities to bring new solutions to market. This is the case for Zotec Partners, a leading revenue cycle management company based in Carmel, Ind. Wanting to do its part to assist during the pandemic, Zotec created testing and vaccine scheduling solutions and inventory management for the state of Indiana.

Becker's Hospital Review recently spoke with T. Scott Law, the founder and CEO of Zotec Partners. He described Zotec's situation at the beginning of the pandemic, explained how the company pivoted to provide an important new service and offered his outlook for the future.

Driven by the desire to help, Zotec created a system to schedule appointments for COVID-19 tests

During early surges of COVID-19, Zotec lost about 40 percent of its volume. This is because the company's physician clients lost about 40 percent of their volume, Mr. Law said.

However, Mr. Law's immediate concern was not for the company's revenue, but for the safety and livelihood of his employees. He recalled, "We looked at the situation and said, ‘how can we help people get back to work.'" Based on the company's deep knowledge of the healthcare space, Mr. Law's attitude was, "There's got to be something that we can do." He added, "We know the interoperability of different systems and we consolidate all of that to do billing for our clients. And we thought we had a way to help. That's all we really tried to do was focus on how we can help."

One way Zotec sought to help was by leveraging the company's expertise and capabilities related to appointment scheduling. Early in the pandemic, the company's focus was on scheduling appointments for tests. Working with the state of Indiana, Zotec created a system to schedule COVID-19 tests at hundreds of sites throughout the state. Mr. Law explained, "We pivoted the technology platform that we had developed for Walmart to bring together disparate EMR systems to have a single registration point and a seamless experience for the patient."

To streamline the vaccination process, Zotec developed a vaccination information management system

As the emphasis at the state level expanded from testing to administering vaccines, Zotec developed its vaccine information management system to help patients and sites manage vaccination appointments in an orderly way. Vaccination site administrators didn't want people standing in line wondering whether a vaccine was available; the goal was for patients to show up for their vaccination at a precise time.

For sites, this system provides visibility into how many patients are scheduled at a specific time on a given day. This information is critical so sites can store vaccines at the appropriate temperature and only remove the appropriate number of vaccines from the freezer. Mr. Law summarized the value of Zotec's appointment scheduling solution: "We had to have a supply and demand signal that enabled sites to not waste vaccines." In this way, Zotec's vaccination information system was not just an appointment schedule system, it was a full inventory management system.

In addition, Zotec's system communicates information back to patients. For testing, Zotec's system informs patients whether they tested positive or negative. For vaccinations, Zotec provides each patient an electronic vaccination certificate showing they have been vaccinated. Mr. Law recounted that when recently asked to provide proof of vaccination, he simply showed his electronic vaccination certificate.

Mr. Law is proud of the outstanding consumer experience that Zotec's vaccine information system has provided to more than four million Indiana residents. Consumers have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction, sending notes to Zotec about how simple and easy the scheduling process was. And sites have said the system helped make the vaccination process easy to manage.

Zotec's vaccine information management system is now being used to see where vaccines are needed

Beyond just managing scheduling and communication, this system contains valuable information that is being used to increase the vaccination rate in Indiana. For example, data from the system can show where demand for vaccines has been high and where it is low. It can show where there have been frequent appointment cancellations and where there is abundant inventory.

State officials are using this data to focus on where more supply is needed and where educational efforts are required to prompt demand. Mr. Law explained, "What we're going to do is use the tools and the data to look at how we can improve people getting the vaccine."

As a result of this experience, Mr. Law has learned several important lessons

Mr. Law conveyed five lessons from this experience.

1. Our people are the key. This was not a new lesson for Mr. Law, but he attributes Zotec's ability to streamline Indiana's testing and vaccination process to the company's amazing people. "I think our team is incredible," he said. "And I want to thank the team that has been so instrumental in doing this for our company and the state."

2. Passion is a powerful motivator. Zotec's team was aligned and focused, and had deep passion for helping the people in Indiana. Mr. Law said, "If you have a passion for doing what you do, that is an incredible power that gets people to walk through walls and do whatever it takes to get something done."

3. Crises drive collaboration. This crisis has driven unprecedented collaboration among various healthcare stakeholders including hospitals, vaccine sites, the state and various federal agencies. As part of this collaboration, Zotec has managed the interoperability and in Mr. Law's view "has been the glue that kept it all together." Mr. Law is hopeful that this collaboration can continue.

4. There is great value in simplicity. Healthcare is incredibly complex. That provides an opportunity for companies such as Zotec to simplify the system for both patients and providers. Zotec's mission is to provide seamless solutions and simplify the complexities surrounding the interoperability of systems.

5. Public-private partnerships can produce amazing results. Mr. Law acknowledged that prior to the pandemic, he thought that sometimes government bureaucracy could be slow to respond. He now has a completely different view. Based on his firsthand experience working closely with state government, he shared, "The people at the Department of Health in Indiana are tireless advocates for patients and Hoosiers. We worked arm in arm with them." Mr. Law now has a new admiration for government progress and is proud of what this public-private partnership has been able to accomplish.

Changes and innovations during the pandemic will improve healthcare in the future

As a result of Zotec's vaccine information management system, Indiana now has a technology platform that can be used to contact and educate millions of Indiana residents. Such a system can help address health equity issues, among other future possibilities.

For Zotec, this experience has highlighted the importance of patient access. Mr. Law said, "We definitely see patient access being an area where we are going to focus a lot of our attention. The fact that we just scheduled our four-millionth patient in just a few months is significant. That capability means we can go to virtually any health system and be their patient access provider. A patient can schedule online, can register, we can make sure they have insurance, check their eligibility and tell them what it's going to cost them." He summarized, "Simplifying healthcare is our mission; it has been all along, but it's been on the back end, and is now moving to the forefront."

Mr. Law also believes the pandemic has increased the adoption and use of technology in healthcare and has fundamentally altered consumer expectations. In the future, patients are going to expect an interaction with their physician and a payment experience like they had during COVID. They are going to want concierge service where they have a telehealth visit and their payment is processed seamlessly. Mr. Law sees consumers wanting to be able to pay for healthcare in multiple ways, such as having payment plans, and paying through Apple Pay, Google Wallet and more.

He believes these changes bode well for Zotec, which has the infrastructure, people and expertise to bring together the necessary insurance information and to process payments from multiple sources.

While Mr. Law certainly didn't anticipate the pandemic, didn't plan for Zotec to develop a vaccine information management system and didn't plan to partner with the state of Indiana, he is proud of how his company has pivoted. He is optimistic about the future and is excited how Zotec can leverage its revenue management capabilities with its entirely new patient access capabilities.

 

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