By David Rogers. June 24, 2017. BOONE, NC — Long waits for health care appointments are becoming a thing of the past in the High Country. Certain member offices of Appalachian Regional Healthcare — and soon others — now feature “same day” patient access.
The now well-publicized frustration of military veterans in receiving treatment for health concerns at Veterans Administration hospitals is a frustration that, until now, has been shared by many in the private sector, too. Nationwide, both new and established patients often have had to wait weeks, even months to be seen by a physician. If the health problem is serious or even life-threatening, the only choice may be the local hospital emergency room or, at best, an urgent care provider that may not be open when you need them.
And the more specialized the medical field, it seems, the longer the wait. One High Country resident recently qualified for Medicare and was seen by an area physician for various “screening” tests. One of those tests came back as a “positive,” and the doctor’s nurse reported that he needed to make arrangements for a colonoscopy.
Do I actually have colon cancer? Will I be alive for your “next available” colonoscopy appointment in six months?
Of course all kinds of questions started going through the individual’s mind: What did the doctors see in the screening test? How serious is it? Do I actually have colon cancer?
So with a phone call to the colonoscopy specialist, he asked for an appointment. “The next available appointment time is October 24th, at 10:00 am. Is that time OK, or would you like afternoon?”
“Well no,” he answered, “it is not OK. This is May. You want me to wait almost six months to see if I have colon cancer? What if I do? Will I live that long? Put me down, but I’ll try to make other arrangements with another provider, maybe even off the mountain. I’ll call you and cancel if I am successful in doing that, but I need to know if there is a problem with my colon NOW.”
Unfortunately, whether wanting to be seen by a specialist or a general practitioner, that individual’s experience has been more the norm rather than the exception. A May 9, 2017 report authored by IHS, Inc. for the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that by the year 2030 the United States will face a shortage of between 40,000 and 105,000 physicians, with those shortages in both primary and specialty care. The specialty shortages, the AAMC says, will be particularly large.
The impact is being felt today. All too often, patients in need of non-life threatening medical attention end up in an already overtaxed emergency room setting. Just like the millions of uninsured people in America needing to see a doctor, they suffer through usually long waits at the ER, even if just experiencing a really bad common cold or flu and need a prescription to at least address one or more of the symptoms and ease the discomfort. Realistically, these patients are treated more appropriately in a non-emergency setting: their local doctor’s office.
Doctor shortages aside, AAMC suggests a multi-pronged approach for healthcare practitioners, including innovations such as team-based care and better use of technology.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare has been listening.
“This unfortunate and avoidable scenario takes place too frequently in healthcare,” says Robert Johnston, Vice President of Ambulatory Services and Clinical Integration at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS). “In response to patient feedback and discussion with patients in the community, we are working diligently to provide same-day access to select outpatient practice locations.”
Not every practice location is onboard with same-day access yet, but three ARHS member offices now have same-day access and a fourth will soon be available.
So far, ARHS has implemented same-day access for patients at The Cardiology Center in Boone, NC; the Baker Center for Primary Care in Linville, NC; and Appalachian Regional Internal Medical Specialists in Boone, NC.
The Cardiology Center:
In June 2017, The Cardiology Center began offering same-day appointments for new and established patients who present with cardiac symptoms.
Cardiovascular services at ARHS also include state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, a catheterization lab, rehabilitation services and two satellite offices in Jefferson, NC, and Linville, NC. To learn more about The Cardiology Center, call 828-264-9644 or visit apprhs.org/cardiology.
The Baker Center for Primary Care:
The Baker Center started offering same day acute care (sick or injured) appointments for new and established patients in April 2017. The Baker Center’s walk-in clinic operates Monday through Friday from 8 am – 6 pm.
The Baker Center for Primary Care is located in the Sloop Medical Office Plaza adjacent to Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville, NC. To learn more about the Baker Center call 828-737-7711 or visit apprhs.org/baker-center.
Appalachian Regional Internal Medicine Specialists (ARIMS):
Since April 2017, Appalachian Regional Internal Medicine Specialist established patients have had access to a family medicine provider for same-day acute care (sick or injured) appointments.
ARIMS is a multi-specialty practice featuring internal medicine, family medicine, rheumatology, pulmonology and women’s health services. To learn more about ARIMS, call 828-386-2746 or visit apprhs.org/arims.
Coming soon – Orthopaedics:
According to Johnston, Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center(AppOrtho) will offer same-day appointments for new and established patients by September 2017. AppOrtho, located in Boone, NC, is the official sports medicine provider for Appalachian State University athletics. To learn more about AppOrtho, call 828-386-2663 or visit apprhs.org/ortho.
“Patient access is a vital component of patient care, outcomes and patient satisfaction,” said Johnston. “We hope that these changes will help better serve patients when they need access to care.”
To learn more about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System please visit apprhs.org.