Hospital system looks to improve outcomes with collaboration, ER redesign

A Michigan hospital system is taking both its emergency department and its care coordination strategies back to square one, according to Hospitals & Health Networks.

Leaders at Grand Haven's 81-bed North Ottawa Community Health System (NOCH) revamped its ED services based on the sheer number of patients who would be better served elsewhere. Of NOCH's ED patients, about 20 percent would be better treated in a different setting, NOCH President and CEO Shelleye Yaklin told H&HN.

"For a fair amount of our target population, access to basic needs is a primary issue--they cannot fill prescriptions, have transportation challenges or don't have heating at home," she said. "These patients cannot get well because they cannot manage day-to-day life."

NOCH has partnered with social services and mental health agencies that share NOCH"s space "virtually and physically," Yaklin said. Increased collaboration with such institutions, she said, can improve care coordination. Moreover, the provider is adding social services such as community health workers who operate outside the hospital and paramedics who are trained to conduct post-discharge follow-up visits.

The hospital conducted community health needs assessments in collaboration with two other area hospitals, the county health department and the United Way, which led NOCH leaders to explore its ED patient profile. NOCH plans to design and build a new ED that will better support the new model it creates.

Recent research indicates hospital design can significantly affect patient outcomes, to the point of reducing hospital-acquired infections. Beyond revamping its own ED, NOCH's goal is to create an ED design adaptable to other community hospitals with unique features and needs. The only aspect separating NOCH from other community hospitals is individual providers' cultures, Yaklin said, and the work the hospital is doing can pave the way for a template that removes those barriers.

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