Among the many things the pandemic has taught us is the importance of having a community around you. Working together as a team, sharing knowledge and providing support is beneficial in so many ways, which is why SICHC has introduced Team-Based Care into our practice.
What is Team-Based Care? According to Stephanie Frye, FNP, it’s a multidisciplinary team approach used for patient care with a goal of improving patient outcomes. And it starts with the initial encounter.
“In team-based care, the overall health of the patient is most important. Every provider has a nurse that assists the patient to the exam room and starts the process of asking questions: does the patient have specific needs that should be addressed, what medications are they are on, do they need a referral,” explained Stephanie Frye, FNP. “A lot of things can come up during a routine appointment and with this approach, if we see that the patient needs something beyond the purpose of the visit, we can do a ‘warm handoff’ to another member of the team who supports the patient with that concern.”
Because SICHC has many different multi-disciplinary levels of services available, like mental health counseling, addiction and recovery treatment, and chronic health care management, the team-based approach is especially effective. Everyone—from the administrative personnel to the clinical staff—is part of the team, so if a patient needs insurance assistance, help with telehealth, or community resource support, the connection can be made immediately to start the process.
“A big benefit is that it helps our providers focus on the patient,” said Quality Assurance Coordinator Lindsey Gardner, RN. “Patients get one-on-one with their provider because the nurse has taken care of all the other tasks, especially those needed for preventative care and overall wellness. The medical support staff are really empowered to take proactive steps, so you’re really looking at services coming from everybody in the organization.”
“Even the staff who are involved with the patient before the actual office visit play a part,” added Katarina Koch, Fund Development Manager. “They are an essential part of helping the patient get ready for their visit and can alert the team if something comes up during that interaction that may be a cause for concern.”
Team-based care is all about empowerment. Team members work to the top of their licensure, and patients are encouraged to engage in their own health and be part of the healthcare decision-making process.
“Personally, I feel like you have better patient outcomes when you empower the patients,” said Stephanie. “As part of my practice, I do try to involve the patient, asking them how they feel about a proposed treatment or giving them options about certain types of care.”
SICHC also has a strong connection with resources outside the practice, both in the community it serves as well as beyond. “We have a community health worker at our Paoli office who is a good resource person for patients who need help from outside agencies or community-based services. With a total of six offices that cover four counties, we have an extensive list of contacts.”
Additionally, SICHC partners with Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement on many health initiatives that allow the practice to expand beyond the clinic walls by engaging the health of the whole community and connecting patients with locally available resources.
“We have several different partnerships with IU faculty and students who support patient care,” said Katarina. “For instance, SICHC’s chronic care management program works with students from IU School of Nursing who come to Orange and Crawford County to provide home visits for our chronic care patients and support them in a variety of ways. At the same time, the students are learning from the patients who teach the student how they manage their chronic conditions.”
SICHC is going through the process of being designated a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH). According to the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), PCMHs improve quality and the patient experience, increase staff satisfaction, while reducing health care costs.
With the team-based care approach, SICHC takes care of the whole health of our patients. As Katarina explained, “We are taking our whole family care to a new level as SICHC continues to be a vital safety net for the health of our rural communities and a part of our patient’s medical family.”