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If a patient walks into East Albany (GA) Medical Center without an appointment, reception staff no longer have to plead with providers to squeeze in just one more patient. Instead, the walk-in is likely to get in and out of the clinic is less than an hour, thanks to a redesign project that assigns one physician assistant each day to handle walk-in patients. That PA is not scheduled for any other appointments that day except for quick follow-ups.
The physician assistants have stayed busy with the walk-in patients, says Ron Malcolm, PA-C, the physician assistant who led East Albany Medical Center’s re-engineering team. As a patient arrives, the front desk makes a decision about how he or she should treated. For instance, a patient having chest pains is referred directly to a hospital. If the patient is very sick, he or she gets immediate treatment ahead of walk-ins with less acute problems.
The reception staff has been educated to recognize patients with chest pains, shortness of breath, neurological changes, and other acute conditions and immediately call the triage nurse to see the patient. The staff uses walkie-talkies, and the physician assistant who sees walk-in patients is on a different channel from his or her usual team. A triage nurse, who also handles the Nurse Express window, is included on that walk-in team.
Because the physician assistant is listening via the walkie-talkie to the conversation between the front desk and the triage nurse, he or she can answer questions and give orders without leaving the patient he or she is treating and then see the walk-in quickly if necessary.