I spend a lot of time with groups of people talking about the need to redesign our healthcare system. The one topic that always gets people’s attention is the issue of hours of operation. People get very frustrated when they have a healthcare need and they can’t get in to see their physician or nurse practitioner.
So I am delighted to report about the work of Greater Baltimore Medical Associates (GBMA) and its primary care practices and specialist practices at increasing access to care. To help reach our vision of providing the care that we would want for our own loved ones every time, we have been working to make it easier to get in to be seen when you need to be seen. The number one strategy for this is increasing hours of operation. Through the hard work of GBMA Medical Director Mark Lamos, M.D. and Chief Operating Officer Ben Beres and with the leadership of physicians at each site and the practice managers, we have significantly increased the probability that a patient can get in to see us when he or she needs to.
Back in 2010, GBMA physician offices were open Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm – which admittedly is often not very convenient for many people and often not when illness and sickness strikes. Now, all of the GBMA Primary Care offices have extended office hours Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m - patients should contact their individual practice for their specific hours or check the GBMA website. In addition, our Hunt Valley office has already started Saturday hours between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and over the next several months all of our Primary Care sites will be open on Saturdays.
The underpinning of our strategy is the Patient Centered Medical Home, which is centered on an ongoing relationship between the medical care team and the patient such that there is joint decision-making and joint ownership of the patients’ health. In order for this joint ownership to work, the physician and her team need to be available when the patient has a need. The team has to share the responsibility and not act like it is a surprise when the patient calls and needs to be seen. No longer is it ok to use the Emergency Department as the pathway of least resistance. The ED was made for emergencies, and it should not be encumbered with fixing the problems of a poorly designed primary care system. I am so proud of our GBMA teams that they are redesigning to get to better health and better care at lower cost. Their redesigned system is not perfect but is surely a more joyful place to work than the old model.
And we now have the evidence that our patients appreciate the redesigned system! The control chart below shows the monthly improvement on our patient satisfaction survey on the question “How easy is it for you to get an appointment when you need it?” Our score over the last two months has reached an all time high!
Let me thank all of our GBMA people for this great work. It is our intention to continually increase our hours of operation to better meet the needs of the people we serve and to continually move from fragmented care to seamless care. Watch us in 2013!