After a year’s worth of work examining and improving their practices, Eastgate Public Health’s Family Planning Program received a the highest possible ranking of quality from a national organization.
“Actually finding out was a little anti-climactic. Once I pressed that send button, that was an achievement for me,” said Family Planning Program Manager Heather Maisen. “I know we do good work, and I know the application reflected that, so I was pretty confident that would be the outcome, and I’m not a cocky person. I was still amazed, though.”
Eastgate’s Family Planning Program was notified that it earned designation as a Patient Centered Specialty Practice – Level 3 from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) in August. A Level 3 ranking is the the highest possible outcome.
The NCQA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving healthcare quality since 1990. Their Patient-Centered Specialty Practice Recognition program ranks programs that apply on one of three levels based on the health organization’s tracking systems in place and collecting data on quality measures.
That meant collecting large batches of data on patient referrals, information access, communication, tracking care, specific patient population information and more.
The Family Planning Program consists of a team of three people who are assisted by shared resources and clerical staff at Eastgate Public Health. Nurse Practitioner Sarah Gollhofer, the sole healthcare provider on the team, sees between 10 and 16 patients each day to provide birth control, preventative testing, follow-up care and more.
In the end, year-long process to apply for certification boiled down to 242-page application and being rated on a point system.
This is one of the nation’s first efforts to see family planning through a new lens, because the NCQA quality certification is usually reserved for medical specialties as heart or cancer specialists, King County Public Health officials wrote on their website.
As part of their work to improve Eastgate’s Family Planning Program, Maisen and a team worked with the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. Eastgate’s group was one of four across the country to work with the association, which provided guidance and structure and developed a national tool kit from the work of all the programs.
The Maine Family Planning, MIC Women’s Health Services in New York and Adagio Health Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA also participated. http://www.nationalfamilyplanning.org/LA40/LLC
Of those programs, Maine Family Planning also gained level 3 certification and MIC Women’s Health services garnered level 2 certification. No information was available on Adagio’s certification level. https://www.nationalfamilyplanning.org/file/pcsp-toolkit/FP_PCSP_Toolkit_FINAL.pdf?erid=1054511
A large portion of their work centered on coordinating care between Eastgate’s Family Planning Program and other physicians.
“A lot of patients think that reproductive healthcare takes place in a bubble, but that’s not true,” said Gollhofer.
One of the changes involved sending letters to a patient’s known practitioners describing the updates to their medical care.
Being able to spend less time means that practitioners can spend less time searching for records, said Kevin Walsh, the lead primary care physician at Eastgate Public Health. It also helps doctors develop plans for comprehensive medical care and prevent the cross-prescription of medication or repeating tests.
Many medical providers around the Puget Sound area use the Epic computer system, meaning that providers on that system can access patients’ records from other practitioners. However, hospitals like Evergreen Hospital operate on a different computer system.
That’s helpful when nearly half of patients are first-time visitors, as is the case for the Family Planning Program.
In the short time period that Eastgate’s program has begun reaching out to other medical providers, there has been a lot more open flow of communication, said Gollhofer. As a result, she is able to focus on what matters most.
“Giving women the chance to plan their reproductive future, have a healthy pregnancy is really important,” she said. “I love the population that we serve and enjoy to impact their lives.”