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New Approach to Primary Care Launches

January 24, 2024

This month, Hartford HealthCare Medical Group launched a multi-pronged approach to make it easier for patients to access primary care. From altering the way appointments are scheduled, to creating provider teams, the changes are designed to help patients get the care they need, when they need it.

National issue

A national provider shortage, higher demand for services and an aging population with complex health conditions have created a logjam in the primary care pipeline. Patients can wait months for an important follow-up appointment and more than a year for a new-patient visit.

Recognizing that this is unacceptable, HHC MG dug into the data to better understand the root causes of the problem and develop a viable solution.

Innovative approach

First, they partnered with a MIT-trained data scientist to better understand each of their 350,000 patients. They learned that some providers have such large caseloads of high-need patients that there just was not enough time to take care of them.

This discovery, along with others, helped HHC MG make operational changes that expand patient access. These include:

  • Grouping nearby primary care practices into small teams that share information, so if one provider is booked solid, another might be available to see a patient while maintaining continuity of care
  • Prioritizing patient visits by appointment type, so patients with urgent needs aren’t waiting weeks to be seen
  • Adjusting the suggested frequency of preventative exams based on age, prioritizing older adults with complex health issues over young, healthy patients
  • Expanding the virtual health team to support offices across the network, ensuring more opportunities for immediate patient appointments
  • Offering a specialized team for Medicare Annual Wellness Visits, freeing-up providers’ time to see patients for follow-up visits or chronic care management

Looking ahead

This is only the first step. The data analytics team, led by Wilner Samson, MD, senior medical director of Care Transformation for HHC MG, is already looking ahead. They are leveraging advanced data analytics and machine learning algorithms to predict trends in patients’ needs, allowing for more efficient scheduling.

Dr. Samson explains that they aim to optimize the patient schedule by considering the unique skill sets of providers, pharmacists, nurses and behavioral health specialists. This tailored scheduling will make different types of providers available to care for patients, further enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery.

“In the end,” says Susan Barrett, vice president of Primary Care Operations “this innovative approach is crucial for preventing and managing health issues, and promoting overall health in our communities.”