CoxHealth doctors adjust schedules to treat more acutely ill patients

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 3:04 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 8:19 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Be prepared for well-visits cancelations as doctors focus to treat more acutely ill patients as COVID-19 cases spike.

CoxHealth shared its plan to relocate doctors in the system. Beginning this week, primary care clinics will call patients to reschedule some wellness appointments.

Cox Medical Group President Dr. Tim Jones says this isn’t a mandate for all primary care physicians within the CoxHealth system. The hospital is asking if doctors have room in their schedules, to try to fit in six acute care appointments each day. Examples of acute care patients would be if you think you have COVID-19 or have an injury.

Doctors taking these appointments will help lighten the burden being seen at urgent cares.

”We’ve given providers the discretion,” Dr. Jones says. “If you wanna just add those in at the end of the day or if you want to split it up three and three in the morning and evening. It doesn’t matter. If your schedule only allows for four or if a provider feels that they don’t wanna change their schedule, that’s okay.”

Dr. Jones says urgent cares usually see between 350 to 400 patients on a given day. However, that’s risen to between 600 to 700 patients each day. He says some staff members are also out sick with COVID-19, which is causing shortages among workers at the urgent care locations.

“What we’ve asked providers to do is look at their schedule,” Dr. Jones says. “If you have a very stable patient you see twice a year, consider moving that out 45 days to create a same day acute spot.”

If you go to an urgent care, you won’t be turned away. Instead, patients may be told they can be seen by a specific doctor immediately instead of having to wait at the walk-in clinic.

The goal in rescheduling some of these primary care appointments for 30-45 days out is to alleviate the wait times moving forward.

“The risk is that patient gets frustrated, they leave, they go home and they get sicker,” Dr. Jones says. “Then they end up in the ER. They end up admitted and that’s what we’re trying to avoid so if we can take care of that earlier up front with more acute access within our primary care clinics, we’re hoping to eliminate some of that if we can.”

If you’re a CoxHealth patient with an appointment, Dr. Jones is advising not to call your doctor. Offices are being flooded with calls. If your physician is looking to reschedule an appointment, they’ll contact you.

“If somebody hasn’t reached out to you about rescheduling, show up and keep it just as is,” Dr. Jones says. “There may be a reason why your provider wants to see you. Even though it’s for a wellness exam, it may be for follow-up on other issues.”

These changes only apply to primary care visits, not any specialty visits like appointments for cancer patients, well checks for babies, etc.

Read the statement below:

As we continue to experience rising COVID-19 cases, CoxHealth’s primary care physicians are adjusting their schedules to treat more patients who are acutely ill.

Beginning this week, primary care clinics will be calling patients to reschedule some wellness and maintenance management appointments. A provider will review and approve any rescheduled appointments to ensure that all patients are receiving timely care.

Wellness and routine appointments currently scheduled in the next 30-45 days could be rescheduled.

The approach is part of CoxHealth’s multi-tiered plan to reallocate resources as we manage the current COVID-19 surge.

Rescheduling these appointments allows our primary care physicians to add appointment times to treat patients who need symptomatic or emergent care.

These new appointments will help primary care physicians support CoxHealth’s urgent care facilities, which are currently operating beyond capacity. In recent weeks, we have served more than 700 patients per day in our urgent cares, up from 350-400 daily visits at this time last year.

We are asking patients who are ill and seeking care to call their primary care physician’s office first, rather than visiting urgent care. They can also use our Virtual Visits on-demand service to connect with a provider.

In the coming weeks, we expect busy hospitals, Emergency Departments, and urgent cares. We are asking for patience and understanding as we manage the surge and work to meet the needs of our communities.

Mercy says it’s not making any changes at their locations or with primary care physicians. Clinics are being encouraged to extend hours if needed and offer more virtual visits.

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