The Vision includes elements like the electronic health record, a centralized call center to free up office staff, and care teams for treating patients.
“All of the hard work being put into these Vision pieces is paying off with demonstrable better care for our patients,” said WellSpan Medical Group President and WellSpan Senior Vice President Tom McGann, M.D.
McGann spoke about the Vision recently at the State of the Medical Group conference. He said that all 58 WellSpan Medical Group practices are making progress, albeit at varying rates.
Primary care faces a perfect storm of daunting challenges in the years ahead. The patient population is aging and requiring more care. New physicians increasingly choose subspecialties over family medicine, creating a shortage of providers. Meanwhile, health care reform threatens to pack waiting rooms with a swell of newly insured patients.
McGann said that in addition to aggressively recruiting new doctors, the Medical Group is hiring more nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
The Vision also empowers nurses and medical assistants to play a greater role in patient care. Nine practices have already shifted their telephone calls to the Medical Group Contact Center. “That allows staff to be working more on the needs of the patients who are there at the moment,” McGann said.
Ridgley Salter, M.D., practices at Hayshire Family Medicine and chairs the Medical Group board of directors. He believes the care team approach is a key to both enhancing patient care and handling increased caseloads.
“Currently, so much of a physician’s time is spent documenting what we do, rather than taking care of patients,” Salter said.
Under the care team model, a nurse or medical assistant stays in the exam room to update the patient’s electronic health record. It enables doctors to see more patients, and gives staff an opportunity to verify a patient’s grasp of directions.
Salter also pointed to improvements in the treatment of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. He praised WellSpan’s electronic diabetes patient registry, which quickly identifies patients who are overdue for testing and treatment.
“We’re trying to shift toward taking care of patients more in the outpatient arena, rather than waiting until they are in the inpatient arena, where care gets very costly,” Salter said.
McGann is cautiously optimistic that the Medical Group will be adequately prepared for the perfect storm bearing down on primary care.
“I think we’ve got a boat that is big enough and sophisticated enough to weather the storm,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean we’re not going to get bounced around a lot.”