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Patient invited to help design new primary care patterned on prevention

Patient-centered care

Tina Williams loves to design quilts, creating beautiful works of art as a hobby and business.

So it seems natural that Tina also would be passionate about volunteering to help Ascension Medical Group design a better model of primary care to keep patients healthy — and out of the hospital.

Ascension Medical Group in Newton, where Tina and her family are patients of Terry L. Mills, MD, and the two outpatient clinic offices on West 21st Street in Wichita have transformed themselves into “patient-centered medical homes” over the past two years. This new approach provides patients with more coordinated medical care, increased access to preventive services, such as cancer screenings, and better management of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Via Christi has invited patients like Tina to serve on advisory councils to help improve the design of the medical home model — and the patient’s overall care experience — so it can be gradually expanded throughout the health system.

“I’m really excited about where this is taking medicine,” says Tina, 47, who has her own business as a medical transcriptionist and has served on the Newton clinic’s patient council since January 2013. “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for patients to be pioneering this new era of doctor-patient relationships.”

Improved patient communication

The Newton council has helped improve communication with patients, including redesigning the clinic’s automated telephone answering system to allow patients to call directly to their physician’s nurse or other care team members. The result: 95 percent of patients have their questions answered immediately, rather than having to leave a voicemail.

“It’s a huge difference when you can call right back to your care team pod,” Tina says. “It cuts down a lot of wasted time and frustration with phone tag.”

Dr. Mills, the leader of Via Christi’s medical home pilot project, says patients should be partners with their care team — and the advisory council is a forum to enlist their help.

“Everything we do should benefit the patients, but in the past we never once asked the patients what they thought,” he says. “When you actually ask patients for their advice, you would be surprised by what you hear. Our patient council has pushed us to be bolder in reaching out to patients to get them to be more active in managing their own health.”

Like quarterbacks on football teams, in the medical home model, physicians serve as the leaders of patient-care teams that include physician assistants, nurses and other clinicians. The teams ensure patients receive needed diagnostic lab tests, cancer screenings and other wellness services – before each office visit.

Tina’s patient experience

Tina has the experience to know how this new care model makes a difference. As a medical transcriptionist, she has an insider’s understanding of healthcare. As a wife and mother, she directs the care of her family — husband Scott and three children, ages 15, 21, and 24 — who have been Dr. Mills’ patients for 15 years.

And, as a patient, Tina was treated for breast cancer in 2008 after finding a lump in her left breast. She underwent a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and chemotherapy.

“The doctors I had were phenomenal. I could not have had better outcomes,” says Tina, who received her care through Ascension Medical Group and has been cancer-free for six years.

The only thing that would have made her care experience better, she says, would have been the ability to review her diagnostic tests online and email questions to her physicians. The good news is that Via Christi has just launched such a service for all patients through “myViaChristi,” a patient portal on its website, viachristi.org.

Tina is excited the care model she is helping to design will create a better experience for patients, keeping them healthy, active and in their homes. “This allows patients to be more engaged in their medical care. The patient and the doctor should always be partners.”

They take really good care of you here. They’re sympathetic — it’s like they’re part of the family.”

About Ascension Via Christi