Ascension St. Thomas Becomes More Community Focused

By H&W on 8th Nov 2018

With Middle Tennessee’s population due to explode by 33% in the next 17 years the Hospital is gearing up to cope with the increased demand, by offering more locally based services.

In Tennessee, Ascension’s Saint Thomas Health operates nine hospitals in addition to a comprehensive network of affiliated joint ventures, medical practices, clinics and rehabilitation facilities that cover a 68-county area and employ more than 8,000 associates.  Across the state, Saint Thomas Health provided more than $127 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2018.  Serving Tennessee for 15 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. 

Saint Thomas Health realizes that access and coverage alone are not enough to guarantee better health outcomes; we also must build a culture of health in our communities. In the current healthcare environment, one focus for Ascension continues to be population health — to promote disease prevention and wellness.

As we plan for the future of healthcare in Middle Tennessee, Saint Thomas Health recognizes that the record-breaking growth in our community isn’t slowing down. The Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization projects that by 2035, our region will be more heavily populated than Denver is today. With an anticipated 33% population growth in our community in the next twenty years, it is our duty to respond to with an efficient, thoughtful and researched strategy to keep care affordable and accessible.

Our vision for an integrated patient experience destination center includes primary care and integrative medicine, on-site lab testing, on-site imaging services and walk-in access adjacent ExpressCare, all under one roof, close to home.  This way, patients feel connected to us at every single interaction, and we have a more comprehensive look at each patient’s health.

More than ever before, healthcare providers are expected to be instantaneous, always available and affordable. We continue to deliver on this promise through the creation of innovative and comprehensive care centers which will uphold our reputation of clinical excellence. One way to respond to our patients’ needs is to change our hours of availability. We shifted away from the typical business hours and designed our sites to offer 7am-7pm availability and weekend hours for onsite care convenient and accessible to working professionals, busy parents, or anyone who may need more flexible hours.  

While each site can’t be open 24/7, we found a way to fill in these access gaps and took advantage of digital healthcare opportunities like virtual care and online scheduling.  This resulted in Saint Thomas Health’s retail oriented environment, which allows patients to schedule all primary care appointments online and avoid cumbersome administrative paperwork.


Community Health improvements

Although we offer care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay, our Family Health Centers are primary care clinics that specialize in caring for the vulnerable by offering extra resources to meet patients’ medical and non-medical needs. In addition, since 2006, Dispensary of Hope pharmacies have provided medication assistance for uninsured and under-insured individuals who are experiencing financial hardship.


Pharmacotherapy Clinic

Based in the Saint Louise Family Clinic, the Pharmacotherapy Clinic offers medication support and management for those with chronic conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and more. Opened in fiscal year 2017, the clinic recorded 158 encounters with 82 unique patients in its initial months. The clinic is currently recording outcomes for managed disease states and has already shown a significant improvement in glycemic control as measured by hemoglobin A1C. In addition to patient care, the clinical pharmacist specialist has already provided hours of lectures and workshops for the UT Family Medicine Residency, and over the next year is planning educational lunch and learn events for community members on topics like diabetes.


Breastfeeding Outreach Clinics

Davidson County’s needs assessment revealed high infant mortality rates and other opportunities to improve infant and maternal health. To improve the support available to mothers of newborns, Saint Thomas Midtown and Rutherford Hospitals operate a Breastfeeding Outreach Clinic. This walk-in clinic works to support, educate and encourage breastfeeding, reducing barriers to breastfeeding and improving breastfeeding self-efficacy. The clinic is staffed with experienced, certified lactation consultants and serves new or experienced mothers who would like extra support with their feeding practices, regardless of their delivering facility. Clinic visits are free of charge, and a mother may visit as many times as she feels she needs.

At Ascension, we’ve identified a dual approach to our continued transformation that will shape our priorities moving forward as we navigate the ever-changing healthcare landscape: optimizing and transforming our core healthcare operations while at the same time creating new models that extend the reach of our ministry and allow our Mission to thrive into the future.

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