Ask most people what they want when it comes to health care, and they’ll say they want quality care that is convenient and affordable. As part of the Fitbit era in which data drives many people’s decisions, they want information and control. Most importantly, today’s health care consumers want options.
Providence is listening, and the result is a changing health care landscape that offers more choices than ever before, making health care services more accessible and affordable. Many of the changes are here today, and many more are just around the corner.
One of the many benefits of a robust electronic medical record system like the one used by Providence—known as Epic—is that patients have full and immediate access to their own medical records. They can review their own records at any time.
Epic adds additional layers of convenience for patients such as the ability to schedule their next appointment, send questions to their doctor and get a response without waiting by the phone, or check on a prescription.
The electronic medical record also improves quality of care by ensuring that all members of the patient’s care team—from the primary care physician, to a specialist or hospital provider, lab technician or pharmacist—have access to all of the patient’s medical information. Finally, it helps reduce costs by eliminating the need for repeat tests.
It wasn’t that long ago when a question or concern about our health meant taking time off from work or school to see a doctor. That too is changing.
Providence is designing an innovative menu of options for consumers that offers same-day access to care without an appointment.
It begins with an online option. Providence Express Care Virtual gives patients immediate access to board-certified health care providers using a computer, smartphone, or tablet, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to midnight. Many minor conditions, such as cold and flu symptoms, respiratory or eye infections, minor cuts and scrapes, or nausea, can be diagnosed and treated without ever leaving home or the office.
When patients need to see a provider in person and don’t have a primary-care physician, Providence Express Care Clinics will offer fast, easy and affordable options for most common illnesses and injuries, also available during extended hours 7 days a week. Providence will open its first Express Care Clinic in Spokane early next month.
Next on the horizon, Express Care at Home is being tested in Seattle and Los Angeles. It promises another level of convenience for consumers. The clinic allows patients to download an app and have Providence providers come to their home, office, or hotel for same-day appointments.
When patients need higher levels of care, a network of primary care, urgent care, emergency care, and acute care hospital services provide some of the best medical care available, delivered by nationally recognized medical and surgical specialists.
For example, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center operates the region’s only Level II—the second highest rating available—trauma center, plus a separate dedicated children’s emergency department just for kids.
Is this treatment plan designed for me? This is one of the most important questions patients ask.
At Providence, the answer is yes, but it also represents an area of science in which Providence sees one of the greatest opportunities for the future. Imagine medicine that is vastly improved in quality and significantly less expensive, and not only helps prevent specific illnesses one patient at a time, but enables treatment and recovery for some of today’s most challenging diseases is fast and noninvasive.
That’s part of the vision for the Providence Health & Services and Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) affiliation that is transforming health care to a proactive model focused on keeping patients well and identifying the earliest opportunities to reverse or prevent disease.
Dr. Leroy (Lee) Hood, who was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama for his outstanding contributions to biology and medicine, serves as senior vice president and chief science officer of Providence Health & Services and as president of the Seattle-based ISB.
Current ISB research projects are working to:
• Better understand early transitions from wellness to disease.
• Identify and analyze patient pop-ulations that are at risk for illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.
• Help breast can-cer patients recover from illness following debilitating therapies.
• Use novel ap-proaches to successfully treat glioblastoma (brain cancer), which is currently an incurable disease.
Health care is most expensive when patients are critically ill and require a variety of services.
The best way to control costs is to provide preventive medicine and care for patients before they become seriously ill.
That is one reason Providence is so focused on the well-being of our patients and our community.
By improving access to basic health care, consumers have the information and tools to better manage their health. By encouraging our children to adopt active lifestyles, they have a greater chance of avoiding debilitating health issues such as diabetes.
By collaborating with community partners to teach healthy food choices and make nutritious food available to the poor and vulnerable, our neighbors and friends are better able to combat obesity and related health issues.
In a perfect world, hospitals would be empty—not because people don’t need health care, but because they get the care they need long before they require highly advanced acute care available at places like Sacred Heart and Providence Holy Family Hospital.
Providence is transforming health care to increase access to the right care by the right provider at the right time at the most appropriate cost.
Elaine Couture is the chief executive at Providence Health Care, in Spokane.
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