By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune
---- — PERU – A partnership between Four County Counseling Center and Dukes Memorial Hospital in Peru is aimed to reduce the number of return emergency room visits and continue medical integration efforts in the community.
Lisa Willis-Gidley, a Four County employee currently contracted as a patient care navigator at the Dukes Memorial Hospital emergency room, works with patients who might be considered frequent emergency room visitors at Dukes.
The patient care navigator position is working as a pilot program funded through a grant from the department of mental health.
Patients are also recommended to Willis-Gidley if they don’t have a primary care physician, need mental health services or if they are repeat clients in the emergency room.
The over-utilization of an emergency room and the need to help manage cases paved the way for the patient care navigator at the hospital, said Tim Gearhart, a vice president at Four County.
Patients are also referred to the navigator for various reasons, including running out of critical medication. Some of the patients might have a common cold, and other issues can range from anxiety to heart issues or even diabetes.
Willis-Gidley assists patients with finding primary care physicians and works with the primary care doctors to help patients get what they need, said Donna Henry, a vice president at Four County.
“I’ve seen a lot of people who just don’t know what else to do,” Willis-Gidley said. “Maybe they’ve just moved to the area or are having financial difficulties and don’t know what they need to do so they go to the emergency room. I jump in and give them different resources.”
The first meeting is followed by a face-to-face visit within 48 hours. The next few weeks include phone calls and visits to ensure patient’s needs are being met. Once Willis-Gidley meets with a patient, she follows up through an outpatient service where a specific number of phone calls and face-to-face visits are required.
For some, it can be a two-week process and for others it takes months, Willis-Gidley said.
“The patient has to be willing to change,” Willis-Gidley said. “When they’re committed to change, not returning to the emergency room and following up with primary care I do see results.”
Since the start of the program in July, Willis-Gidley has worked with well over 100 people, she said.
Because of her previous experience as case manager, linking resources came easy to her. One of the challenges was linking resources in a shorter amount of time.
“Now I have to build a rapport within minutes,” Willis-Gidley said. “It has been good though. I can go home knowing I helped a patient get what they need.”
Debra Close, CEO at Dukes Memorial Hospital, said when talking about possibilities for the position, it was discussed that having someone navigate through the complexities of health care, whether it was a patient who was having resource issues or helping patients adjust to their situation.
The addition of the navigator fits right in with medical integration, Henry said. Someone influential in preparing Willis-Gidley as patient navigator at Dukes Memorial Hospital is Carrie Cadwell, chief clinical officer at Four County, Henry said.
Caldwell has also been a cornerstone of medical integration in this community, through her ideas and excitement in seeing how people respond positively, both physically and mentally, when the care is integrated, Henry said.
The medical integration continues through Four County and Dukes Memorial Hospital working together, Close said.
“They have a different knowledge base of resources that we wouldn’t normally have,” Close said. “Meshing our two components has been a win-win for both of us.”
The partnership has given the community an opportunity to learn more about medical integration and see mental health aspect goes hand and hand with someone’s well being, Close said.
“This is the future if we look at wellness for our community and working together is key,” Close said. “We are hoping we as an organization can help overcome the stigma.”
Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her: @PharosAES.