Connecting Specialty Patients with Primary Care Providers
May 22, 2019
Enhanced point-of-service scheduling mechanism for specialists coming later this summer
By Cliff Megerian, MD
President, UH Physician Network and System Institutes
UH Clinical Update | May 2019
We’ve done a great job in the past few months emphasizing that our UH patients who seek specialty care and referrals for second opinions and surgical consultations need to stay within the UH system.
As a result, we’ve seen a marked improvement in the percentage of patients for whom our primary care physicians have made this happen. That’s good news for our patients and their care.
We are continuing to make sure that our patients are catered to at the point of service – while they are still in their primary care provider’s office – by having their upcoming appointments (follow-ups, or appointments with specialists) made then and there. There’s no need for them to make phone calls from home and try to remember which physician they should see and when; their next appointments are scheduled. Our Schedule Me Now system has made this easy and efficient for office staff to do.
Even more importantly, we know that when a patient’s appointment is made, there is a much higher likelihood that he or she will keep it and stay within our system to have all their care coordinated with their UH primary care provider. At UH, we focus on high-value care, so these patients can avoid redundancies in testing, for example. They’ll also receive the safest care because the eyes of all their physicians will be focused on them through the electronic medical record.
But if we are ultimately to be recognized as the most patient-friendly and high-touch service environment, then we must go a step further and close the loop.
We will begin doing this later this summer, by working with our specialist physicians and their office staff.
Here’s why: It’s not uncommon for a patient to come see me as a specialist and for that person to either have no primary care provider or have one in another health system whom they don’t like. In those circumstances, especially if I am taking that patient to surgery, it is incumbent on me (or my specialist colleagues) to have the ability to immediately connect them with a UH primary care physician – just as our primary care providers have been able in recent months to quickly get their patients specialist appointments.
Our primary care providers do great work, and so do our specialists. It just makes sense to have reciprocity between them. So if a patient comes here without a primary care provider, we want to get them connected to a great one at UH. The totality of a patient’s care should be coordinated and managed within our system.
High-functioning health care organizations are all moving toward this path. We know that when these principles are applied, patients have much higher satisfaction and alignment with the system. Numerous studies show that the safety and quality of the care that is delivered is enhanced. Finally, the overall cost of care is minimized because duplicative testing and procedures are not performed.
We have made tremendous progress. In 2011 we had nearly 700,000 patients that we saw in our system on a yearly basis. That number has expanded to nearly 1.3 million lives today. The health of large system like ours is measured in great part these days by the number of lives it safely manages -- and manages in a way to provide the highest value for its patients.
Again, that means doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible for our patients to stay in our system – from primary care all the way through the quaternary care provided at UH Cleveland Medical Center.
Later this summer, we will be rolling out enhanced mechanism of for point-of-service scheduling from specialists to our fantastic primary care providers, who now represent the largest PCP team in all of Northeast Ohio.
Let’s take advantage of these physicians, who have been working diligently to refer patients to UH specialists. They, too, would be happy to see some of the unattached patients in our specialty clinics become their patients.
I know I would personally feel much better knowing that my complex otologic and neurotologic surgical patients are under the watchful eye of our seasoned internists and family medicine professionals.
Please join me as these avenues become delineated, and as we work toward the greater care of our patients and our system.