Health clinic quality notches up

P1030304

By Pat Grubb

Things are trending in the right direction at the Point Roberts hospital district, going by the results of a survey presented to district commissioners on March 10 by Unity Care NW chief operating officer Shanon Hardie.

“I think the results are pretty darned good,” Hardie said, referring to a 2015 fourth quarter quality improvement report and survey. “The takeaway from this – all the measures are green. Point Roberts tied with one other care team for having the most improvement on their quality improvement measures,” she said.

Unity Care NW, formerly known as Interfaith Coalition, manages the Point Roberts clinic under the overview of the Point Roberts Hospital District. It operates medical and dental clinics in Bellingham and Ferndale as well on the Point. The Point Roberts clinic sees an average of about 550 patients each quarter and monitors their health using a number of different measures.

For example, 60 percent of patients in the fourth quarter of 2014 kept their blood pressure under 140 over 90; in 2015 that figure increased to 74 percent. Diabetic patients are monitored under four separate measures (eye exams, blood sugar levels over time, nerve damage screening and poor blood level control) and in all four areas, the clinic exceeded the goals set for the quarter.

In term of client satisfaction, 91 percent said they were very satisfied with the quality of care that they had received with similar results for telephone service, wait times in the clinic and ability to get appointments.

The number of patients that have no insurance has declined dramatically since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act from 13 percent in 2013 to 6 percent in 2015. This, coupled with a 4 percent increase in patient visits, in-house pharmacy savings and reduced overhead resulted in a surplus of $38,500 for 2015. “One of the things I’d like staff to consider is, what should be done with that surplus,” said Hardie, prompting a caution from the district’s financial auditor SuzAnne Kinsey.

“I have to be cautious,” Kinsey said, “just because we had a surplus last year doesn’t mean that we’ll have a surplus this year.” Hardie agreed and added that the regular reviews performed would allow tracking financial trends.

Nurse practitioner Natalié Davidson suggested the community could benefit from increased mental health services. “There’s a core group of individuals who teeter on the edge quite a lot and it’s not something I want to make a mistake at,” she said, adding that while she felt comfortable dealing with less acute conditions such as depression or anxiety, it would be desirable to have support service for patients suffering from more serious afflictions, such as schizophrenia.

Hospital district superintendent Elaine Komusi said the district had explored the possibility of providing counseling services in the past but had been brought up short due to the clinic’s lack of soundproofing given that counseling would take place during regular clinic hours. Nevertheless, the district has been in communication with possible mental health counselors and would report on progress.

Reached following the meeting, Hardie explained that most of the measures being tracked are determined by priorities set at the state and national level. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension and screening for cervical and colorectal cancers are commonly state and national priorities as they are important indicators of quality and patient outcomes.

She added that Point Roberts is unique in Unity’s system in that it not only serves as the primary care provider for some of the community but also as an urgent care center for patients who seek their primary care elsewhere.

“Some folks who live on the Point go to our clinic when they have an urgent need come up and it is more convenient than traveling to their primary care provider outside Point Roberts. We also get a lot of visitors in the summer who only make Point Roberts their home seasonally and therefore get their primary care elsewhere. As a result, the clinic does not have the opportunity to impact or improve many of these measures for those who are only seeking urgent care from us,” she explained.

In other business, the board agreed to participate in the health fair to be held in August in conjunction with the fire district and other health service providers.

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