MidMichigan Health innovates to improve health care accessibility

Pankaj Jandwani, M.D. is the Regional Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief Innovation Officer for MidMichigan Health.Innovation in health care often requires a careful balance of scientific improvements with a holistic view of patient well-being. At MidMichigan Health Park – Bay, advanced technologies integrate into a facility design that maximizes patient privacy and comfort while fostering focus and teamwork among providers.

“We wanted to start afresh and create an ideal experience for our patients. We recruited an innovative team that is eager to pilot new ideas in fun and exciting ways,” says MidMichigan Health’s Regional Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief Innovation Officer, Pankaj Jandwani, M.D. “Once we demonstrated success with these ideas and technologies, we could then scale up and implement them across our health care system.”

Building design provides innovative setting for patient care

MidMichigan Health Park – Bay was built in 2018 based on a unique layout separating patient care rooms from health care operations management. At first glance, the center’s hallways resemble a hotel, with subdued lighting, a rotating selection of artwork from local artists, comfortable seating, and discreetly-placed exam rooms arranged in a rectangular configuration. 

Relaxation zones provide a quiet place for family members to wait during office visits.The building’s central area, accessible by doors in each patient room, contains provider and staff workstations, diagnostic equipment, and meeting rooms. This setup removes the patient from the hustle and bustle of health care operations, encouraging quiet conversations with medical professionals. At the same time, doctors and nurses gain the opportunity to work without interruptions and freely discuss medical cases.

Patient rooms feature heated massage chairs and couches to promote relaxation. The custom-designed chairs can fold out as needed to become exam tables. MidMichigan Health hopes these elements allow patients to feel more comfortable during their exams and help mitigate White Coat Syndrome — the blood pressure increase sometimes observed as a stress response to medical visits.

Patient rooms feature heated massage chairs that can fold out to function as exam tables.With the help of new technologies, MidMichigan Health was able to eliminate the concept of a traditional waiting room at the Health Park. Not having a waiting area takes away the discomfort of sitting in close quarters with other patients and helps reduce transmission risk for infectious diseases like COVID-19. 

Digital technologies streamline patient access

E-check-in streamlines the arrival process by enabling patients to complete any necessary paperwork online ahead of time. Patients can also elect to enable “Hello Patient” on their mobile phone, a feature of the MyChart app provided by Epic that signals when patients are nearby so staff can get ready as patients approach. After virtual check-in through the patient’s device, greeters take patients directly to exam rooms. Family members accompanying patients to appointments can wait in the building’s “relaxation zones” — semi-private seating areas styled like living rooms.

Patients can use the MyMidMichigan patient portal to directly schedule appointments, send messages to their health care team, and even conduct e-visits or video visits without leaving their home or workplace. 

Provider and staff workstations are separated from exam rooms to foster focus and collaboration.“Along the way, we’ve improved a lot on using these technologies,” says Jandwani. “This is very important because it’s making access available to patients — as we say, it is in the palm of their hands. If patients are able to make an appointment at their convenience, it is more likely that they will come in and get the care they need.”

For specialty medical care like orthopedics and oncology, Health Park staff can assist patients with direct appointment scheduling. The “One Person One Record” program allows providers across the MidMichigan Health network to easily access patient data and communicate collaboratively.

The RetinaVue scanner saves patients with chronic conditions like diabetes from having to make a separate trip to an ophthalmologist.Acknowledging that attending medical appointments at multiple locations can be overwhelming to people with chronic health conditions, MidMichigan is continually looking for ways to streamline the diagnostic process. Recently, the Health Park introduced the RetinaVue technology to its diabetes management protocol. The device, made by Hillrom Services, Inc., captures detailed retina images while patients look through a binocular-like interface. The images are sent to an ophthalmologist who can use them to diagnose common complications, eliminating the need for a separate eye exam.

Competition solicits improvement designs from health care staff

Rachel Aultman is the Director of Innovation and Transformation for MidMichigan Health.MidMichigan recognizes that many of the most relevant and imaginative innovations come directly from health care staff. The health system has invited its employees to submit ideas for improvements to its “My Idea” competition, which will take place quarterly. Selected ideas will be implemented at the facility following a selection process by the leadership team and staff.

“We will look at how each innovation idea aligns with our purpose statement for our health system, which is ‘creating healthy communities together,’” says MidMichigan Health’s Director of Innovation and Transformation, Rachel Aultman. “We’re really looking for the submitter to articulate how their idea is going to bring us closer to fulfilling that purpose.”

New emergency department and walk-in clinic to open

MidMichigan Health plans to expand the innovative services offered in Bay County by opening a new emergency department at the site. The ER will provide accessible emergency care to Bay County residents living west of the Saginaw River, who now need to travel for as long as 30 minutes to obtain critical services. Construction at the site is ongoing.

Construction is underway for a new emergency department at Bay City Health Park.MidMichigan has recently opened EZCare, a walk-in medical clinic inside the Meijer store on Wilder Road in Bay City. EZCare provides rapid testing and convenient care for simple, low-complexity conditions like allergies, UTIs, and ear infections. Patients who do not have a primary care physician can receive same-day treatment at EZCare and be referred to future visits with a provider at the Health Park.

“We hope this will really improve the continuity of care,” says Jandwani. “A lot of patients go to the emergency department and urgent care and sometimes lose that relationship with their primary care physician. Here we can improve that because the provider team at EZCare and the Health Park will be working together to care for patients.”

Read more articles by Marta Manning.

Marta Manning was born in Poland and relocated to Midland after living in various cities on the East Coast. A lifelong passion for writing and photography prompted Marta to shift her career trajectory from lab science to freelance journalism. She contributes regular articles on medical topics to WebMD.com and helps business clients write proposals for federal research funding. Her articles have appeared in the Chemical City Paper, Our Catholic Faith Midland, the NAMI.org national blog, and the Midland Daily News.
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