FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- DeWitt Army Community Hospital is eliminating its Family Health Center and modifying how patients receive care.

Beginning in February, the hospital introduces four main departments - Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Primary Care - and establishes procedures to allow primary care managers the ability to see only patients assigned to them.
The changes are part of the hospital's focus on improving the quality of health care patients receive and increasing access to health care as it begins transitioning to the new, state-of-the-art Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Currently, many patients do not have any kind of established relationship with and may not even know their PCM. Patients often schedule appointments based on their schedule, instead of trying to schedule an appointment with their provider. This practice decreases the continuity and quality of care, said Regina Tellitocci, chief of clinical support division at DeWitt.

Doctors are providing care to patients they do not know on a regular basis, which takes more time because they must learn each patient's medical history. Often, patients become frustrated with having to explain their medical histories to different doctors who then must research patients' records to understand what care they need and what medications they received in the past. The result is longer appointments, limiting the number of patients physicians can see in a day.

Under the new system, PCMs will be on teams of three to five providers, plus staff to support them. DeWitt staff will first offer patients appointments with their PCMs. If their PCM is not available, patients can schedule an appointment with another provider on their PCM's team. This allows doctors to maximize their time and become more efficient because they are familiar with their patients' histories.

"The highest quality of care begins with continuity of care," said Gilbert Turner, Family Health Center administrator at DeWitt. "Having dedicated physicians assigned to patients will help improve the level and quality of care they deserve."

Access to care will also increase as a result of more exam rooms being open. One doctor will mainly have two exam rooms instead of sharing exam rooms with other physicians. This is expected to decrease wait times and allow physicians to see more patients.

Another benefit of patients visiting the same PCM is the ability it gives hospital staff to better track appointments. By monitoring these appointments, staff can more accurately understand the appropriate demand patients have for acute, routine, well and established appointments.

"It all falls under the umbrella of improving care," Tellitocci said. "This is the beginning of a new era of health care delivery as we begin the transition to the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, and we want patients to understand we are focused on satisfying their needs."

Over the next few weeks, patients will receive letters from the hospital notifying them of any PCM changes. The letters will contain contact information so patients can work closely with hospital staff to ensure their needs are met.

Widener is the DeWitt HCN public affairs officer.