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Integrated Care during Disaster Relief

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Hospital-based care continues to evolve as facilities face access issues, acuity shifts and environmental stressors, such as the ongoing strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. As clinicians provide the best possible medicine, they may also face administrative and structural barriers that can impact patient care. Service silos may negatively affect patient flow and hurt key metrics, driving down indicators of exceptional care. However, integrated care can increase efficiency and quality, particularly when facilities must engage in disaster relief.

Why does integration matter?

Integrated services can shift a hospital’s performance for the better, and this is particularly true of hospitalist and emergency medicine services. As most admitted patients are funneled through the emergency room, active collaboration is key to efficient care and great patient experiences.

For patients, this means smoother transitions and seamless experience from presentation to discharge. Because integrated services inherently include a team approach, all clinical staff have the same goals. The main goal never changes – providing what’s best for the patient. However, integration allows for improved strategy around data sharing, patient flow, communication, collaboration and more.

Value of integrated care during disaster relief

The initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic strained healthcare facilities and clinicians. This continued through subsequent waves, as recent as the Delta and Omicron variants of late 2021 and early 2022. At Baptist Health Deaconess Madisonville, our emergency and hospital medicine teams experienced high patient volumes. The acuity of patients continued to increase, causing the rural regional facility to initiate transfers to provide patients the proper level of care.

“We all kind of took care of each other, along with the patients.” – Dr. Bunch

During this time, the emergency and hospital medicine teams – integrated services through TeamHealth – came together to create an action plan. For example, the high volumes created a need for additional staff, which we were able to coordinate easily with other clinicians from TeamHealth. Further, transfers of higher-acuity patients were seamless. Working together, the emergency department (ED) would initiate transfers of patients outside the facility’s acuity scope, and meanwhile, the hospitalist team would help manage chronic conditions and consult as-needed for patients awaiting transfer. Though a seemingly small issue, without the close relationship between the departments, we might not have been able to come up with a simple solution so quickly.

Facing disaster, amidst a pandemic

Amidst the latest wave of the pandemic, the Madisonville community was also struck by an EF3-EF4 tornado. In the immediate aftermath, the clinical teams on the front lines faced a steep and quick rise in patient volume. At one point, the ED was more than three times bed capacity. To help control patient flow and volume, the hospitalist team joined ED clinicians. They began triage and coverage of patients, while also reserving staff to admit patients. Since we were on the same chart system already, the hospitalist team was able to immediately begin seeing patients without any obstacles. Being part of the same overall team, both departments were immediately on the same page and worked together smoothly early in the morning hours of initial disaster relief.

“You wouldn’t have known who was an ED clinician or hospitalist because we just worked hand-in-hand.” – Dr. Taylor

Integrated care at Baptist Health Deaconess Madisonville

In any disaster, front-line clinicians come together to support patients and teams. With integrated services, though, barriers are eliminated, allowing for quick, efficient action and collaboration. Not only do patients benefit from the collaborative efforts of interdisciplinary clinical teams, but so do facilities.

Certainly, amidst disaster, but also in day-to-day operations, facilities are not burdened by the need to intermediate between teams. Having integrated service lines means the respective teams handle any issues, such as interruptions in flow, without the need for hospital leadership intervention. Not only does this decrease the burden on the facility, but it also increases efficiency and patient experience. At Baptist Health, we have seen improved throughput for the ED and more timely discharges for admitted patients, creating a successful and sustainable clinical ecosystem.

What makes TeamHealth different?

TeamHealth’s national footprint allows us to offer our clinicians and facility partners vast resources. One of the most important resources for staff is the stable leaders on-site and at the national level. The didactic leadership structure frees clinicians from administrative burdens while also offering clinical guidance and resources. This leadership structure also includes facility medical directors who help unify goals across integrated services lines and meet regularly with hospital administration to create strategies aligned with the facility’s growth goals. When integrated service leaders and their teams actively collaborate in meeting facility goals and improving quality, the TeamHealth difference shines brighter.

To learn more about how our integrated services improve quality, get in touch with us.