by Alison Shaw
Special to the Sounder
I worked at OMC as its Clinic Manager from 2008 to 2015, which included the transition to working with Island Hospital. Before that, I worked at the UW for 17 years as a Research Administrator in Medicine. With these insights, I urge all Orcasians to support the OMF-UW Neighborhood Clinics partnership. Some reasons are obvious; others are perhaps less obvious but no less important.
Depth and breadth of services to patients: Having UWNC on Orcas brings a level of expertise to our island that a small, independent practice can’t provide. Collaboration between the UW’s physicians and ours would benefit ALL island patients.
Telemedicine: This is making a big difference in rural communities. The ability to see and speak to a specialist without losing a day of work or the cost of the ferry can be critically important to some (and therefore all) of us.
Coordination of Care: this would be greatly improved with the Epic medical records software, used by nearly all Northwest hospitals and their associated physicians. Epic is the gold standard for many reasons, but especially because a patient’s records can be shared electronically, at a moment’s notice, with other physicians in an emergency situation.
E-Care: Many Orcas patients can access a modified version of their primary care records now. But with E-Care and Epic, your primary care and hospital records can all be accessible in one place. E-care also provides greater access to your doctors – very important in times of need.
Purchasing power: As part of a large organization, UW Neighborhood Clinics would be able to purchase medical and office supplies at lower, contracted rates.
Compliance Oversight: Clinics must adhere to the Dept. of Health’s high standards for patient safety and infection control. Association with a larger, accredited organization like the UW ensures that these standards are met. Inspections are frequent!
Credentialing Oversight: The Dept. of Health imposes strict rules about the credentials of all clinical staff so everyone performs within the scope of their licenses. A larger organization ensures no slip-ups or rule-breaking, thus ensuring a greater level of patient safety.
Laboratory Oversight: The UW will ensure that all in-clinic laboratory protocols are up to date and properly followed with results reported directly to the patient’s medical record.
Access to Continuing Medical Education: The UW has many superior CME resources for physicians and nurses. Training updates are important to all patients.
Please understand that no single, independent practice on Orcas has the ability to provide this level of expertise, depth of care, and additional services. And sustainability of the current individual practices over the long term is simply not feasible, for a variety of reasons. If we are thinking of our future and that of our children, we must chose what’s best over the long term, regardless of current alliances. OMF has focused on securing medical services on Orcas for about 60 years, and with the UWNC alliance will provide those services for decades to come.