Despite being in the very human business of relieving pain and suffering, US healthcare is more criticized for its poor customer service than celebrated for its user-friendliness. For more information, one can begin with “If Disney Ran Your Hospital” (Fred Lee, 2004).
Ms. Jane Brody, the trusted columnist for the New York Times and best-selling author on matters of personal health for nearly 50 years, recently wrote an incisive piece detailing the inadequacy of care-choices after business hours in traditional healthcare (Avoiding Emergency Rooms, April 15, 2013).
Ms. Brody hit all the low points of traditional American healthcare … (1) inability to reach the patient’s primary care physician for a simple matter, requiring an ER visit; (2) hours of waiting in the ER before being examined, (3) incomplete testing in the ER, requiring an otherwise unnecessary one-night admission to the hospital, location of super-bacteria and sleep deprivation, and (4) large financial waste. She concludes “… the medical profession has thus far failed to adequately fill the gap left by doctors who no longer make house calls or answer the phone 24 / 7 / 365”.
Well, we have at Kaiser Permanente of Georgia.
This month marks the one year anniversary of the opening of the first of four “Advanced Care Centers” (ACC). Our ACC effectively addresses each of Ms. Brody’s criticisms: (1) open 24 / 7 / 365, staffed by physicians and nurses with excellent credentials and years of experience in emergency care, who are electronically and telephonically connected to the patient’s physician and her/his partners, (2) prompt and accurate diagnosis and treatment (time from walk-in to walk-out usually less than 2 hours, rather than the 4-6 [or more] in an ER), (3) a full complement of testing capabilities, including lab, imaging, telephonic specialty care AND if needed, quiet, comfortable, sparkling rooms to spend the night in the care of a hospitalist-physician, (4) at a cost lower than an ER copay/visit. The nearly 2,000 patients per month that use our Kennesaw ACC have been delighted with the quality and service. The second ACC will open in January 2014 at our Southwood campus in Jonesboro.
As Ms. Brody says, “The overuse of emergency rooms is a growing and increasingly costly problem that results in overcrowding, long waits, overly stressed health professionals and compromised care for people with true emergencies”, the latter of which accounts for only 25% or less of patient visits to most ERs. At KP, we are proud to be The Face of Future Care (see my previous blog post of this title).
Someone should tell Ms. Brody.