Patients of primary care practices in Greater Cincinnati are finding it easier to get the care they need

Selecting a primary care doctor can be a daunting task. A patient runs through a checklist of questions. What are the provider’s training and credentials? In which hospitals does the provider work? What do I do if I have an emergency or if I need medical help after-hours? Does the provider give advice over the phone for common medical problems?  Can I contact my provider by e-mail? Does the office have electronic health records?

While the process can be overwhelming, the good news is that Greater Cincinnati area primary care practices are improving from 61 percent to 64 percent when it comes to getting care when they need it, according to the most recent survey results.

YourHealthMatters.org allows patients to compare hospitals, primary-care practices and patient-centered medical homes via a consumer-friendly public website.   The site reports scores provided by six large medical groups in the Greater Cincinnati region obtained from their data for a 12-month standardized patient survey that assesses patients’ opinions about the quality of their experience during a recent visit to their primary care provider’s office.

The most recent survey results are based on feedback from randomly selected patients regarding four main areas of care including:  How Well Doctors Communicate, Courteous and Helpful Staff,  Doctors with an Exceptional Rating, and Getting Care When Needed.  Results were provided by approximately 161 primary care practices for office visits from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014.

The measure “Getting Care When Needed” is a composite of several questions regarding patient ease in making appointments and having access to information about their health and health care when needed. Initial data collected from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 showed 61 percent of patients reported a positive experience when scheduling an appointment or obtaining answers from their primary care practice in a time frame that met their expectations. The collective scores increased to 64 percent for office visits that took place between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014.  “What gets measured gets improved. Clearly these scores are a direct reflection of that,” said Dr. Barbara Tobias, Medical Director at the Health Collaborative.  “Practices have the right strategies in place such as same day appointments, online scheduling, and email access to their doctors. I believe we will continue to see satisfaction scores improve as practices get better at execution,” she said.

Mercy Health Physicians – Harrison Internal Medicine saw an 18-point increase in satisfaction scores. Brenda Bridges, Practice Manager, attributes the results to adding time for same-day appointments over the last nine months. Additionally, Bridges says the scores likely reflect the practice’s newly concerted effort to communicate and educate patients about their care.

“We send out quarterly letters to our patients that follow their care plan and remind them how to follow up and make appointments,” said Bridges. “We want to make it very easy for them to know how to reach us,” she said.

UC Health Wyoming also saw a jump in patient satisfaction results with an increase of 17 points. The practice cites My Chart, the online portal for patients to access their personal health records, prescription refills, and schedule appointments, as reasons for the improvement.

“When you give patients more options for communicating with their doctor, they feel more in control of their care,” said Jenny Schneider, Practice Manager for UC Health Wyoming. “We have seen an increase in patients using the tool and as a practice we are getting better at managing the effort,” she added.

Visit the YourHealthMatters Resource Library for information on how to make sure you are getting the right care, when you need it.

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