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“Call Unity First” is a program created by Unity Health Network’s Quality Improvement Committee (QI) with the goal to improve the appropriateness of care settings and access for patients. To help ensure patients’ care was being delivered in a manner that was best-suited to their clinical need, a campaign was started to promote that the first call a patient should make – in a non-life threatening or serious medical situation – is to their primary care office.
Whether during office hours or after-hours, patient calls are directed to a nurse triage team that assesses the patient condition. The triage team, in conjunction with a physician when necessary, helps direct the patient to the appropriate setting – an office visit, urgent care or emergency room. Patients with conditions treatable in the primary care setting are quickly scheduled with their attributed physician or, in an open appointment with another Unity Health Network primary care physician.
This program has not only allowed for a decrease in avoidable emergency room admissions, urgent care visits and hospital readmissions (all of which reduce costs), but the approach also maintains a higher degree of continuity of care for our patients as they are able to stay within our network of providers.
The “Call Unity First” initiative has met with extremely positive results. As an example, between 2017 and 2018, avoidable emergency room visits were reduced by 18% following implementation and promotion of the program to Unity Health Network patients. Additionally, in 2018, an average of 263 patients per month were able to see Unity Health Network providers as they were found open appointment times either in extended hour settings or in primary care offices other than their attributed physician.
“Call Unity First” has been promoted in a number of ways to expose patients to this important program. Exam room “door-backers” advertise the initiative, taking advantage of the “captive” audience waiting to see a physician. Refrigerator magnets were passed to patients with their discharge reports, flyers were included with billing and all office staff received talking points and instruction to remind patients about the program while interacting with them during an appointment.
Improving access so patients could see a Unity Health Network provider during an urgent clinical need, while reducing costs and increasing satisfaction and quality are the key benefits of “Call Unity First,” and its just one of the many ways Unity Health Network has been successfully moving toward a value-based organization.