Let’s face it. Scheduling a physician visit can come with a high hassle-factor. You’re either feeling lousy and want to be seen today, which isn’t always possible, or you need a physical exam, but the available times mean rescheduling your entire day. As a consequence, getting healthy and staying healthy may fall through the cracks.
To ensure that every patient can conveniently and easily make these vital appointments, UHS extended office hours, increased physician access and enhanced its medical home team approach to care. “Seeing patients when they need to be seen is top priority, so we’re breaking out of the cookie cutter, 9-to-5 mindset at our primary care sites,” stresses Alan Miller, MD, UHS Medical Group president and internist.
“We’re always listening to our patients,” says Chris Kisacky, vice president of operations at UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital. “Lately, our patients have been asking for extended office hours, so now many UHS primary care sites open at 7 a.m. and close later into the evening.”
Same-day appointments have also been expanded, and patients who phone their primary care office before 3 p.m. can be seen that day. “You may not see your physician but you will see a provider at your primary care site,” Dr. Miller says. “And because we have a team approach to care — thought to be a much higher quality of care — your doctor is kept in the loop about your sick visit.”
To accomplish this higher level of access, UHS added primary care centers and staff throughout the system. “We want to say yes when somebody needs an appointment, so we aggressively recruited about 25 new doctors and around 40 advanced practice providers,” Dr. Miller says.
For those unsure if a same-day appointment is necessary, there are two patient-friendly links to guidance. The first is UHS Nurse Direct, which connects patients to a registered nurse by phone (763-5555 or 800-295-8088) or in-person at the UHS Stay Healthy Center in the Oakdale Mall. Nurses are available 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. The second option is to phone your primary care site and ask that a registered nurse return your call. “We have a team of RNs taking these calls, and across the system messages are returned within 24 hours or earlier,” Ms. Kisacky explains.
On the Record
Further coordinating patient care, the UHS Electronic Health Record (EHR) system tracks the status of annual visits, alerts providers about a patient’s need to schedule immunizations and medical tests and adds updates when a patient receives care from another UHS provider. “Having all this medical information at my fingertips facilitates communication between doctor and patient as well as physician to physician,” Dr. Miller emphasizes. “Just as important, it significantly reduces the possibility of medical error and improves our quality of care.”
Every best practice initiated to enhance physician access results in timely care as well as continuum of care. “It’s important for patients to establish an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider,” Ms. Kisacky says. “So we’ve made it as convenient and simple as possible for our patients to see their primary care team — whether today or in years to come.”
NEED TO FIND A PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER?
Call Nurse Direct at 763-5555 or 800-295-8088 for help finding the right provider for you. Or click on the “Find-A-Provider” menu item above.