GBMC doctors join push to improve patient care, save money

The first thing patients probably notice when walking into the new doctors offices at Greater Baltimore Medical Center is there is no waiting room.

Patients go directly to an exam room, where doctors, nurses and other staff are supposed to cycle in during a half-hour appointment. All supplies are on hand, as are electronic medical records, to ensure that people leave with any needed prescriptions or referrals to specialists.

The design is patterned after one used by a Seattle medical system, which modeled it after Toyota's production system.

The so-called "patient-centered medical home" concept aims to improve work flow, improve patient care and cut costs. The GBMC office on the Towson hospital's campus is among several in Maryland that are becoming medical homes.

The movement was encouraged by the federal Affordable Care Act, which provided states with money beginning in 2010 to pay for electronic medical records and pilot programs that compensate doctors for healthier patients.

GBMC patient Susan Erlich, a 49-year-old Pikesville resident, said she feels like she's the "center of attention" at the new office, with nurses and doctors coming to her. Even registration is done in the exam room.

"My new doctor not only returns my calls but even scheduled me at the end of the day so I could have more than the allotted 30 minutes because I felt like I needed more time," she said. "I think the system will save money in the long run, but it's just better service."

Erlich said she believes her doctors are doing all they can to keep her out of the hospital by ensuring that she's got her medications for a chronic condition and can easily see a provider in the office, where care is cheaper than the emergency department. She said her previous doctor was quick to tell her to go to the emergency room and once didn't notify her for four days that she had pneumonia.

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