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From the Desk of Erlene Washington: A Year in Review

December 1, 2021
Erlene Washington joined GBMC HealthCare as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of GBMC Health Partners in February 2019, bringing with her more than 25 years of experience in healthcare finance, operations, and strategic planning. Three years into the role means half of her time at GBMC has been spent managing in crisis. Despite setbacks like a global pandemic and an international cyberattack, Washington is proud of GBMC Health Partners’ growth.

“It just speaks to how well we take care of patients,” Washington said. “Despite everything, we continue to grow, and you can see our focus is the patient. Whether it’s better health or patient experience or more joy, it all ties back to the patient. We have an obligation to ensure our community is healthy.”

Erlene Washington, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of GBMC Health Partners
Erlene Washington, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of GBMC Health Partners
Washington shared five key ways GBMC Health Partners valued the patient experience in 2021.

1. We value time.

GBMC Health Partners primary care locations offer convenient hours – opening as early as 7 a.m. and closing as late as 9 p.m., depending on the location. Not only is there a focus on centralizing the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 testing, but the primary care practices are also a hub for vaccine administration.

In specialty areas, there is also an intentional focus on preserving time for patients by centralizing presurgical and preprocedural testing as a one-stop shop prior to major procedures.

2. We value availability and accessibility.

On average, patient volumes at GBMC Health Partners increase about 2.5% per year. This year, it is on track to exceed those results. GBMC Health Partners added 36 new providers this year to help serve a growing population of almost 83,000 patients. Additionally, GBMC Health Partners expanded its footprint within the last two years, opening two important locations.

GBMC Health Partners at Padonia differs from other primary care locations because of its specialty services. In addition to primary care, patients can also access same-day rapid response services, gynecology, urological gynecology, orthopaedics, as well as pelvic floor therapy.

GBMC Health Partners at Jonestown is GBMC’s first location in Baltimore City and centers on access to care. GBMC Health Partners works with key constituents and leaders within the Baltimore City community to address health inequities.

3. We value resources.

Less than 10 years ago, there was a statewide issue concerning the overutilization of Emergency Departments for non-emergent needs. Due to a lack of available resources, many patients turned to the ED for their basic care, which caused excessive waiting times and obstacles in the case of true emergencies.

GBMC Health Partners makes an intentional effort to identify high-utilizers of the ED at the point of entry and refers them to a primary care site. The Complex Care team there – primary care physician, care manager, and care coordinator – manage the patients’ health together, removing the ED from the equation. Whether it is managing diabetes or mental health concerns, chronic pain or routine exams, the team is there for patients when they need care.

GBMC is now lower than the state benchmarks in terms of patients utilizing the ED by a difference of almost 25 percent.

4. We value health.

As part of its commitment to a patient-centered, team approach to care, GBMC Health Partners has been paying close attention to specific measures, one of the most important being diabetes.

For patients with diabetes, a care plan is imperative. The Complex Care teams at GBMC Health Partners practices work with patients to develop a plan and then follow up with them to ensure A1C levels are appropriate. If not, the team can evaluate, adjust medications, or make diet suggestions.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 2020 MIPS benchmark data, in the better performing health systems that rank in the 90th percentile, 31.4% of diabetic patients have uncontrolled diabetes. At GBMC Health Partners, measures show only 19 percent of GBMC patients with diabetes fit this description, and we continue to work to improve even more.

Other areas GBMC Health Partners continues to pay close attention to and measure improvement on are breast cancer screenings, colonoscopies, pneumonia vaccinations, BMI screenings as well as depression screenings.

5. We value your opinion.

Select patients receive a survey after each visit, and the feedback provided is used to guide improvement. Patient satisfaction scores are consistently in the top quartile and a patient’s likelihood to recommend a primary care practice has been as high as 94.1 percent.

This means primary care practices are doing well on providing access to care. Patients can get an appointment when they need one and, if they need to visit another hospital for a service GBMC does not provide, GBMC can coordinate the care through MyChart and through the use of its electronic medical record. The ability for providers to access a full medical history, prescriptions, test results, and other records is essential in providing the best and most individualized care plan.

Washington is proud of the work done this year to achieve GBMC’s strategic vision and goals for care of the community. But the work is not complete. While GBMC Health Partners will continue to ensure the patient experience gets better and better, Washington always keeps in the back of her mind a desire to ensure every single patient feels that experience, regardless of race, gender, ability, or socioeconomic status.

“Improving health inequities and providing access in underserved communities is so important. Even if we could make small steps each year on the road to improvement and solving these inequities, it would make a massive difference,” Washington said. “That’s really important to me: to improve the health of underserved communities, particularly in Baltimore City. If I could achieve that by the end of my career, that would be a milestone.”
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