Hospital changes ER contract

As part of an ongoing effort to change its culture, WhidbeyHealth is choosing a different organization to manage its emergency department.

Starting Jan. 21, 2020, the organization Sound Physicians will be staffing the department with its providers. The group will be replacing TeamHealth, which has managed the department since approximately 2003, said Linda Gipson, WhidbeyHealth chief quality officer.

Sound Physicians has been providing hospital-based doctors at the hospital since 2014. Gipson said that, in reviewing the contracts, hospital leadership saw an advantage in having the same organization working in the two departments.

The “hand off” of patients between the emergency room and inpatient care should hopefully happen more efficiently and reduce wait times, she said.

In patient surveys, a common complaint is that service takes too long in the ER, Gipson said.

“Fifteen minutes feels like five hours when you’re not feeling well,” she said.

The new contract is for seven and a half full-time equivalent physicians and one advanced clinical practitioner, which includes nurse practitioners or physician assistants. The organization will be interviewing all current providers in the ER department who wish to stay, Gipson said, but they aren’t guaranteed jobs.

The three-year contract is for a base fee of $285,151 a month with additional costs for high-volume periods and temporary physicians.

With hospital input, the organization will also select and employ the medical director of the department. Gipson said the national group has more resources for training, information on best practices and quality metrics than WhidbeyHealth has on its own.

The group has already made improvements for inpatient care in the hospital, she said. The organization’s physicians focused on congestive heart failure, which is a common chronic condition for WhidbeyHealth’s patients, and made changes that cut the re-admission rate in half, Gipson said.

The contracts for TeamHealth and Sound Physicians were up this year, according to Chief Operating Office Colleen Clark, which made it a good time to do a “deep dive” into the services each was providing.

“We have a history with Sound, and we’ve seen that they really align with the culture here,” Clark said.

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