Partners, Mass. League of Community Health Centers provide workforce training

Sponsored by Partners HealthCare

10/9/2014, 6 a.m.

Life in a community health center is fast-paced and full of energy. The staff of a health center is truly its lifeblood and plays an essential role in keeping the community healthy. That’s why Partners HealthCare and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers are helping to ensure that health center personnel have the tools they need for professional development. The Integrated, Measurable, Process, Alignment, and Capacity-building Tools and Techniques (IMPACT) program supports health center staff in their continuous efforts to identify opportunities for enhancing patient experience, staff satisfaction, health care delivery, and organizational efficiency.

Over 20 health centers have participated in the IMPACT program to date, including the Bowdoin Street Health Center in Dorchester. The Bowdoin Street staff identified a challenge and appointed a team to tackle it with the support of a program coach at the League.

Many of us have had the trying experience of playing phone tag when attempting to be in touch with the doctor’s office. At Bowdoin Street, lapses in communication between its call center and clinicians had left both staff and patients feeling frustrated. Taking on this common health care challenge, the IMPACT team conducted a comprehensive analysis of how patient messages were being transcribed and disseminated to clinical staff. Through their participation in the IMPACT program, the Bowdoin Street team was able to identify a lack of consistency and clarity in the transcription of patient messages.

“When we first started, everyone was on the same page about what we wanted to accomplish, but it was a much more complex project than we anticipated,” says Angel Valentin, Patient Service Representative of Bowdoin Street Health Center.

In the end, the team worked together to develop standardized phone scripts which help to elicit the information clinical staff need to effectively address and triage patient inquiries. Within five months the team achieved its first benchmark: 85 percent of messages forwarded from the call center to clinical staff required no further clarification. Says Angel: “Nothing changes overnight, but ultimately the training transformed our team’s way of doing things.”

By joining together in the training, employees had an opportunity to learn more about each other’s work and develop a better understanding of the role each person plays in providing patient care. The team at Bowdoin Street is now thinking creatively about how to apply their IMPACT skills to other challenges too.

“Everyone respects the time committed and invested in the training, so we want to ensure that the positive changes continue,” says Philly Laptiste, Operations Manager of Bowdoin Street Health Center and sponsor of the training.

“The Bowdoin Street initiative is a great example of what we are trying to accomplish with the IMPACT program,” says Janice Brathwaite of the Mass League, and coach of the Bowdoin Street team. “Working with them was an amazing process; I could see firsthand how their internal communications transformed for the better.”

The support of Janice was essential for the team and its success.

“Having Janice available was really important, as was the support of Partners,” says Adela Margules, executive director of Bowdoin Street Health Center. “Hospitals should continue providing this kind of support to community health centers.”

Each health center has a coach that assists in the training of staff so that they learn to recognize, understand, and act on opportunities for continuous process improvement within their organization. That way, the changes and improvements made during the IMPACT program are not restricted to one challenge alone. Participants are reminded to retain and reuse their skills as they go through their daily tasks, helping increase efficiency.

“The IMPACT program is a great asset for community health centers throughout the state,” says Matt Fishman, vice president of Community Health, Partners HealthCare. “We’re helping health centers make tremendous gains—enabling patients to spend more time with their healthcare providers, reducing wait times, improving safety, enhancing patient and employee satisfaction and removing avoidable costs. All of these things contribute to a healthier patient population, and, ultimately, a healthier community.”