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Allegheny Health Network Diamond Care Program Helps Patients Steer Through Medical System Maze
By Daniel Casciato

Patrick DeMeo, MDIt can be overwhelming for patients and their family members when they need to undergo any type of surgery and rehabilitation. To alleviate any apprehension and confusion, health systems, such as Allegheny Health Network (AHN), have added navigator programs to help patients traverse through the system during their stay to ensure a seamless experience. Navigators offer education, support and advocacy for patients. It's a result of the new emphasis on patient-centered care.

AHN's navigator program, called Diamond Care, combines industry best clinical protocols with a dedicated patient care navigator service that provides one-on-one counseling and support, from surgery preparation through post-discharge follow up.

"Diamond Care was implemented to improve safety, quality of care, and the patient experience; Improve outcomes, and lower the total cost of care," says Patrick DeMeo, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at AHN.

To create a highly personalized and worry-free experience for patients, a Diamond Care Navigator is assigned to each patient undergoing knee and hip replacement surgery at AHN.

The navigator's responsibilities include:

  • Helping to coordinate pre-authorization testing and paperwork
  • Providing additional education about the upcoming procedure
  • Answering patients' questions before, throughout, or after the procedure
  • Welcoming patients and loved ones on the day of surgery and making sure they get to the correct location
  • Regularly visiting patients during their hospital stay
  • Making post-discharge calls to follow up on patients as they recover

"For patients, it's a very satisfying experience because they are not navigating the system alone," says Dr. DeMeo. "Our navigators are marching them through each step of the way. From a cost standpoint, because we are driving down the length of stay and reducing complication rates, we're improving the socioeconomic burden for our healthcare system significantly."

Standardizing best-practice protocols such as implementing physical therapy the day of surgery and caring for post-operative patients on a dedicated joint replacement unit provide the foundation for excellent outcomes, adds Dr. DeMeo.

"Same day physical therapy is important because it can decrease complications such as blood cots and infection rates," he explains. "Once the patient is mobilized, it also allows us to discharge the patient earlier. We feel it's much better for the patient to recover in the comfort of their home."

The average length of stay of orthopedic patients at AHN is now two standard deviations below the national average, according to Dr. DeMeo.

"There's no question that from a patient safety and quality perspective, we definitely have some of the lowest complication rates in the United States," he says. "To be able to develop a process where we can deliver better healthcare at a lower cost is very important for the economics of healthcare."

Initially, the Diamond Care program was piloted in the orthopedics department and breast cancer unit at AHN. Because of its success, the program will be rolled out to other service lines across all seven hospitals in AHN's system.

"This is a novel way to address some of the things that are wrong with healthcare, make it more affordable, and provide better access to people who need it," says Dr. DeMeo. The biggest problem in healthcare is costs. We're trying to show we can improve quality and still lower costs. If we don't do something now, we never will be able to provide care to the patients who need it because it's going to be too expensive. We came up with a way to address this issue and at the same time improve quality and safety."

For more information, visit https://www.ahn.org.

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