[Editor’s Note: This is the first part in a four-part series going in depth on the one-year anniversary of the partnership between Ochsner Health System and LSU Health Shreveport.]
It’s just shy of one year since LSU Health Shreveport and Ochsner Health System formed a 50/50 partnership with the shared vision for advancing healthcare and medical education in north Louisiana. One of the main pathways for achieving this vision is through improved access to care. What that really looks like in Shreveport is taking care of the community with efficiency and quality.
The increase in access to care has meant clinics seeing more than 25,000 additional patients over the first 10 months of the partnership. Inpatient admissions have also increased. Areas such as labor and delivery, gastrointestinal procedures, cath lab and/or cases has also increased more than 8% each.
Overall decreased wait times for an appointment are down 33% compared to those prior to the partnership kicking off on Oct. 1, 2018. These include such areas as Family Practice, reduced from 32 days to same-day appointments; Cardiology, from more than four-months wait time to less than one month; and infectious disease, from six months to less than one week.
Chuck Daigle, Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport CEO, said that focus on efficient and quality care essentially has the goal of keeping citizens well and healthy.
“Ochsner is largely focused on preventative care, chronic disease management, and moving care out into the community,” he said. “We have a responsibility to take care of this community. Patients and their families may not always know the advanced technology we have or the advanced drugs we use in their care, but they always know how we made them feel.”
When the partnership began last year, that meant analyzing a patient backlog, installing operational policies and procedures, and best practices. Daigle noted that Ochsner has a proven track record with systems that have been developed and refined over the last decade.
“For example, that includes building an information system that promotes access to care, online scheduling, and pre-patient registration. Those systems were refined for physicians and practitioners to make sure documentation is efficient so that within clinics, we have the ability to make sure it runs efficiently and we see more patients,” he explained.
The process for assessing the needs was a different story — it meant a large amount of data analytics of services line-by-line, diving into each clinic to understand where historical difficulties lied in access to care. Those analytics guided priority for areas that needed focus. That meant everything from human resources and information systems, to necessary technology in clinics, staff, and procedures.
“(It was about) reengineering clinics to how patients were treated and brought into the clinic. Procedure areas in the hospital, turnover time, processes to make sure that those were efficient but had the highest quality and safety,” Dangle said.
As a Level I Trauma Center, there was a particular focus on quickly responding to the patient. That meant ensuring speedy access to the emergency room and multiple call teams of surgeons and anesthesiologists who are on call 24-hours per day, 7-days per week.
“Being a Level I Trauma Center, that designation has its own constraints. We’re the only Level I Trauma Center north of I-10. We have a large responsibility and our team does an incredible job,” Daigle said.
The biggest need in access to care after the partnership formed was contacting patients, specifically making sure they could easily contact the health system through methods like text messages and online scheduling, as well as educating them about the changes.
“We’ve gotten to where most customers feel comfortable doing much of their day-to-day business online, and we need to provide that ease of access there for our patient base about the services we offer and the ability to schedule their appointment,” Daigle said.
Moreover, the changes and upgrades to access to care haven’t just been in terms of intangibles, it has seen a massive investment in new buildings, equipment, and staff.
Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport is making a $70 million investment this year to accommodate growth of the health system.
“We’re experiencing large amounts of growth in this health system in terms of patient volume. When we look at expansion, part of our goal is to move services off Kings Highway and into the community. We want convenience for parking, easy access, customer service to patients and families. Many things go into that – location, construction and design teams, licensure with state and federal regulators, adhering to Best Practice protocols in design of those clinics, and communication to the community through marketing,” Daigle explained.
Those needs in access to care combined with that growth saw Ochsner and the LSU School of Medicine working together to develop a recruitment plan focusing on primary care, cardiology, infectious disease, and Gastroenterology. So far, more than 100 physicians have been added and more than 50 full-time, non-physician employee positions have been added. The system has budgeted for another 200 employees to be hired by July 1, 2020.
In addition, the major renovation and opening of the Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport St. Mary Place campus at Margaret Place Properties, 1 Saint Mary Place, Shreveport, will include a litany of advanced services such as a neurosurgery clinic, neurology clinic, orthopedics clinic, and GI clinic. They also have plans at that location for an outpatient lab, diagnostic imaging center, outpatient surgery center, pediatric clinic, primary care access, and oral and maxillofacial clinic.
“Everything at that campus will be put in place between now and into spring 2020,” Daigle pledged.
Other expansions include a dedicated Hepatitis C clinic, urgent care centers in Bossier and Shreveport, a primary care clinic in south Shreveport, and asthma, allergy ENT clinics in Shreveport and Bossier City.
For Daigle and his team at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport, it all gets back to impacting quality of life by keeping patients as productive members of the community. But it also has the knock on effect of positive economic growth, something he recognizes.
“You have the economic impact of 100 new providers, those are well-employed people coming into our economy, they are purchasers in our local economy that benefits our economic engine here north in Louisiana,” he said. “You have the economic impact of more patients being seen quicker in an outpatient environment that is more affordable. Ochsner is a leader in the nation in terms of investing in technology for proactive, preventative care, rolling out new methods of digital health, and connecting with patients. Long term management of health provides lower healthcare costs. We have to do a better job in controlling costs. Being proactive is the only way to do that.”
Daigle noted that they have moved quickly in improving access to care over the past year, even quicker than all the parties in the partnership expected. To that end, he gives his team all the credit.
“It takes a great deal of hard work and a vision of stability. You have to couple together the reputation of Ochsner and a stable partner like LSU to make the ability to recruit and retain talent for north Louisiana happen. We’ve just been very successful, but we want to continue. We know we still have work to do and want to improve.”