House Calls first exercise into data mining an Assisted Living Community (ALC) immediately found this: a moderate sized ALC has a census 55 residents who are cared for by 42 different primary care physicians! Nearly every resident has a different physician. No doubt every ALC is in a similar situation. And if you count the multiple office staff in each physician’s office who answer the phones and take messages, as well as the usual staff turnover, and also the physician’s call partners and their offices and staff, then this exasperated ALC nurse may literally have hundreds of medical personnel with whom to interact when performing or overseeing routine care for her residents. And this is just one of her many duties!
No wonder a task as simple as getting an answer about a lab result, or a simple medication question, or getting a signature on a form, or especially getting a physician’s response to a resident’s acute medical complaint can consume the nurse’s attention for hours and sometimes days!
Years ago, hospitals found the solution for the inefficient and often times unacceptable care resulting from many physicians caring for many patients: Hospitalists. Most hospitals now hire a small group of physicians called Hospitalists to care for their in-patients. Each Hospitalist generally provides most of the care for about 15 patients. Nurses for the patients know exactly whom to call, and they get a prompt response from a physician who is knowledgeable and dedicated to this group of patients. Hospital care has not only improved for the patient, it has also improved for the nurse.
ALCs would do well to take a lesson from the Hospitalist model. Although it is neither necessary nor financially feasible for an ALC to hire a group of physicians, there is a way to vastly improve the current situation most ALCs are burdened with: that is, having a glut of disconnected and unfocused medical personnel to sift through whenever a physician response is needed.
Data Mining Message
PARTNERSHIP. ALCs must be proactive in reaching out and establishing a working partnership with just 1 or 2 local primary care physicians – that’s all that’s needed. Physicians who would be willing to be the primary care providers for any resident voluntarily wanting to take advantage of their services. Yes, a small financial investment by the ALC may be required to support the physician’s administrative costs required in developing a portion of his practice at the ALC. But this investment is small and easily and quickly recovered by more efficient communication with physicians who are focused on YOUR residents, thus freeing your staff to attend to other activities. Physician partnership also serves as an important market differentiator for current and prospective residents. Residents and their families will feel comforted in knowing that your community has a special relationship with local physicians. This is a partnership in which EVERYBODY WINS!