Improvements to patient access are well underway this year

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A key priority of Kaiser Permanente Washington in 2017 is improving patient access, and we’re already making good progress. We’ve added new walk-in clinics at our Puyallup, Port Orchard, and Tacoma medical centers. We already had established — and successful — walk-in clinics in Olympia and Silverdale.

We also added three CareClinic by Kaiser Permanente at Bartell Drugs locations. Des Moines CareClinic opened in March, Silver Lake CareClinic in Everett opened in April, and Gig Harbor CareClinic opened in June. That brings the number of CareClinics in the Puget Sound area to 13, and our goal is to reach 15 by the end of the year.

“Walk-in clinics at our medical centers and CareClinic locations at Bartell Drugs are greatly improving our ability to provide patients with the in-person care they need, when they need it,” says Paul Fletcher, MD, medical director, Clinical Operations and Market Integration. “The clinics are ideal for patients who have minor medical needs that require prompt care but don’t involve lab or radiology tests, or extensive history taking.”

A few examples of conditions that are well suited to walk-in clinics include colds and allergies, ear and sinus infections, minor burns, urinary tract infections, and insect bites. Services are available to adults and children age 2 and up. Patients are seen on a first come, first served basis and care is provided by a certified physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Walk-in clinic hours at our medical centers vary from location to location, while CareClinics are open daily, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. One convenient and popular feature of the CareClinics is an online map showing the number of people in line at each location.

CareClinic Website

CareClinic map, showing how many patients are in line in real time.

Other care options also improving

Increasing the number of walk-in clinics is just one way we’re improving access to care this year. Others include:

  • Expanded staffing at medical centers. We’ve added primary care staff at many of our medical centers, making it easier for patients to schedule appointments with their personal physicians.
  • Video visits for pediatric urgent care. When our clinics are closed, members who call the Consulting Nurse helpline about pediatric issues can be directed to a real-time video visit with a Kaiser Permanente pediatrician. With the introduction of these visits in Washington state, parents can now get care for their children at home, avoiding the inconvenience and cost of an urgent care visit.
  • Improved secure messaging. We’re continuing to roll out our centralized Secure Messaging Service (SMS) to all our medical centers. The SMS team expedites responses to patient queries and frees up physicians to focus on in-clinic patient needs. The team includes registered nurses, medical assistants, patient access representatives, and an assistant clinical operations manager.
  • Increased call-center staffing. Our call centers are now prepared to surge their staffing levels as needed to make sure patients can get their questions answered in a timely and satisfying way.

We’re also continuing to offer online visits for minor medical conditions such as sore throats and colds.

“Making sure patients receive the best care and the best service, in ways that are most comfortable and convenient for them, is an ongoing effort at Kaiser Permanente,” says Kelly Stanford, vice president, Clinical Operations and Market Integration. “We’ll keep you posted on other improvements in patient access as they take shape this year.”