Over the last eight months, my solo practice in Delaware has seen a 60 percent reduction in our monthly Emergency Department (ED) utilization rate. How have we accomplished this? We have undertaken a number of measures to reduce unnecessary ED utilization since joining the Aledade Delaware ACO, but clear communication – both with our patients and with other providers – has made a tremendous difference.
I have always put a focus on being available for my patients. Patients can contact someone from my practice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. I know the value – in health and peace of mind – access to a doctor delivers for patients.
As part of joining the Aledade Delaware ACO, my practice placed an emphasis on strengthening our communication with our patients to ensure they know they can – and should – contact my practice about any health need at any time on any day or night. I have reinforced this principle through clear communication during patients’ visits to my office, through my office staff, and with signs in our waiting room, provided by Aledade, reminding patients to call us before they go to the ED or hospital. I also proactively identify frequent ED users in my patient population with the Aledade App, which helps me create a dialogue with these specific patients, while better understanding their health concerns and needs.
During a recent weekend, I received a call from a patient suffering from a cough. Comfortable the patient did not need to seek medical attention immediately in the ED, I arranged a convenient time to see him in the office the next day. Alternatively, I recently advised a patient with chest pain who called after hours to seek immediate medical attention. Given the severity of his medical issue, I called the hospital and had him directly admitted, bypassing what would have been a costly ED visit that would have resulted in a hospitalization.
As a solo physician, I know it takes support to provide this level of communication and service to my patients. Dr. William Funk, a fellow member of the Aledade Delaware ACO, and I alternate our weekend on-call hours to benefit both our patients and our schedules.
Delivering high-quality care takes much more than clear communication. However, establishing communication between patients and providers goes a long way to increase the quality, timeliness, and cost of care. Ultimately, this benefits our patients’ health and well-being, and that’s what value based care is all about.