AdvantageCare Physicians (ACP), a large, multispecialty group with broad market reach, is leading a new healthcare system that rejects an approach of simply putting some pills in patients’ hands and pushing them out the door—an approach it perceives as all too common today. As people live longer and healthcare costs continue to rise, this mode of thought creates problems not just for individual citizens, but for the country as a whole.
Gerren Faustini, the company’s regional VP of operations for Manhattan and Staten Island, is trying to bring AdvantageCare to the forefront of healthcare by not only healing patients, but ensuring that those patients stay healthy.
“The process of engaging the patient in their overall care is critical to achieving the patient’s long-term health and wellness,” Faustini says. “Healthcare providers throughout the country need to shift the paradigm of patient care to not only treat patients when they get sick, but to keep them healthy in the first place.”
“Healthcare providers throughout the country need to shift the paradigm of patient care to not only treat patients when they get sick, but to keep them healthy in the first place.”
One way that ACP is working toward patient engagement is by enhancing communications within their facilities.
Here is a familiar medical experience: Waiting to see a doctor for a diagnosis after getting a test performed, then waiting for the prescription to reach the pharmacist and for them to fill the order, then waiting some more to see a doctor for a follow-up, all while needing to make sure that paperwork is in order. ACP aims to make this no-longer-efficient process one of the past.
“We at AdvantageCare Physicians utilize a single electronic medical system, Epic, where all of our physicians and care teams can access our patients’ records at any of our facilities,” Faustini says. “Our specialists have access to all of the laboratory testing and results, physician notes, treatment plans, and medical care is expedited with internal referrals to our physicians.”
At the same time, AdvantageCare Physicians is working to lead other healthcare providers in the same direction by incorporating these companies into its new system of enhanced communication.
“We integrate our services with many outside providers and hospitals to ensure rapid dissemination of clinical information across the continuum of care,” Faustini says. “We further engage patients through patient-centered medical-homes initiatives, advanced HEDIS [Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set] measures, meaningful-use guidelines, active patient outreach, and utilizing latest technology such as our patient health portal we call ‘myACP.’”
Any time a large company tries to make such a major shift, it’s bound to face obstacles. For ACP, one of those challenges has been, unsurprisingly, getting other healthcare providers on board with the change.
“We need to continue to lead our healthcare providers during this change,” Faustini says. “At the same time, we still have to interface with outside organizations and caregivers that are leveraging a more traditional model of providing a focus on volume instead of outcomes. Due to our contracts, we have to start to link patient outcomes to both fixed and variable cost of referrals.”
There are a lot of elements in measuring those costs, and AdvantageCare Physicians is doing its best to make sure all bases are covered.
“[Since we are] focused on reducing unnecessary patient referrals to both internal and external providers,” Faustini says, “we must choose our preferred outside providers and hospitals based on quality outcomes, patient satisfaction, collaboration of care, and contracted cost.”
Although getting other entities on board with the new structure can be frustrating, there are advances in which ACP can modify its internal practices to provide better care to patients. One of the ways it has done this is by expanding its hours of availability.
“The process of engaging the patient in their overall care is critical to achieving the patient’s long-term health and wellness.”
“We have coordinated our hours of operation from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. during weekdays and have extended our service on Saturdays in order to best provide our patients with enhanced access to care,” Faustini says. “We also offer an after-hours walk-in service [that is open] until 11:00 p.m. in many locations, as well as a certified urgent-care center in Staten Island. All locations have lab services, and some offices have core radiology modalities.”
All of this, combined with partnerships with organizations to include full-functioning pharmacies in some locations, has increased ACP’s ability to create a one-stop shopping experience for patients.
“Patients can have their lab work completed prior to their appointment, schedule or undergo any of the offered diagnostic and screening procedures, and leave their primary care or specialist appointment with their prescribed medications—all within one integrated medical office,” Faustini says.
Like everything else in the increasingly digital world, the process of receiving care is evolving, and Faustini says he is, above all, driven above all by a feeling of obligation to stay on his toes in anticipation of this evolution’s twists and turns.
“The delivery of healthcare is constantly changing,” he says, “and I feel privileged to be part of that change.”