By 19th Medical Group
The 19th Medical Group launched multiple initiatives in the summer and fall of 2013 that enable patients to obtain more timely appointments.
“We wanted patients to trust that we’re able to care for them and their families when they need us and that required us to be more available,” said Lt. Col. Johnathan Compton, 19th Medical Group chief of medical staff.
During furlough staffing shortages spring and summer of 2013, the clinic struggled to meet the access-to-care needs for their beneficiaries. Often, patients would wait weeks to see a provider for routine issues, and those with more urgent needs were sent off base. During the September Unit Effectiveness Inspection patients’ frustration with the process and access to medical care was noted as a significant issue for the wing.
“We listened to what our patient’s had to say and took it to heart—we needed to provide better access,” said Compton.
Specific new initiatives included adding more appointments in the schedules, offering nurse-care appointments, realigning the tobacco cessation and deployment health programs and granting direct access into supporting clinics. As a result of these initiatives, the 19th MDG has seen promising returns.
“Multiple indicators have shown positive trends that will benefit patients,” said Capt. Charlie Stevens, 19th MDG group practice manager. “We’re seeing some of the best access numbers in over two years.”
Data from the last quarter of 2013 shows the lowest number of patients being sent to urgent care centers, the lowest missed appointment rates and the highest access to acute and routine care in many months. The clinic reports a 70 percent decline in the amount of patients sent to urgent care in December 2013 when compared with August 2013. Also, the missed appointment rate has dropped by 40 percent in that same time frame. All of this has led to post-appointment surveys indicating a dramatic increase in patient satisfaction with appointment availability.
The 19th MDG reminds patients there are many steps they can take to help improve access to medical care. First, it’s important for patients to reschedule or cancel an appointment if they’re unable to keep it. Doing so allows the clinic to use that appointment slot for another patient that day. Secondly, patients enrolled at the clinic can directly book or cancel their own appointments by using TRICARE Online at www.tricareonline.com. Finally, patients can register for MiCare at the clinic. This allows the patient to send their provider secure emails in which they can request appointments, request prescription refills or simply get medical advice.
“Many patients who use MiCare find that they can meet their needs without an actual visit to the clinic,” Stevens said.
“Every day our team is improving processes. We’re working hard making access to outstanding care easier for our patients,” said Compton. “As 2014 gets underway, the 19th Medical Group remains committed to delivering timely, outstanding care for Team Little Rock.”