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Cutting The Red Tape

TORRANCE MEMORIAL PHYSICIAN NETWORK HELPS DOCTORS BETTER FOCUS ON PATIENT CARE.

The proper care of patients—often with complex medical issues—requires organization and communication between multiple physicians. This collaborative effort leaves room for error if even one physician or care provider doesn’t provide thorough information. For instance, family practitioner David Haas, MD, and his staff used to spend hours communicating with a patient’s various care providers before proceeding with any form of treatment—to find out which tests, medications and procedures had previously been conducted and/or prescribed.

Today, however, the entire process is being streamlined through the Torrance Memorial Physician Network. A single electronic medical record is currently being developed for the Physician Network, so this information is instantly at Dr. Haas’ fingertips for an increasing number of his patients.

Dr. Haas’ practice (formerly known as Torrance Family Practice) is one of several physician practices that recently joined the Torrance Memorial Physician Network. Upon its establishment in 2012 as a primary care physician network, the goal was to bring together valuable resources to provide comprehensive, well-coordinated and highly personalized care.

It was also designed to address locally a growing national challenge: a shortage of primary care providers. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a current shortfall of 25,000 primary care physicians—and estimates this to jump to 45,000 by 2020. The Torrance Memorial Physician Network also has expanded to include a number of specialty practices, including endocrinology, rheumatology, diabetes care and hematology/oncology.

Establishment of a new electronic medical records system is one of the first orders of business that will enable all in-network physicians to work from one record for each patient. “It’s helping to refine the quality of my patients’ charts, which improves patient safety by minimizing the risk of errors,” Dr. Haas says. “It’s also faster and more efficient. If I have to run a chart at 1 a.m., all the information is right there.”

An added benefit is that this efficiency allows Dr. Haas to spend more time working to make his patients well—and less time pushing paper and managing his practice. In addition, patients of the Torrance Memorial Physician Network who are in need of advanced care will be referred to highly regarded medical specialists, while their primary care provider remains closely involved.

According to F. Lee Reitler, MD, (of the practice South Bay Family), joining the Network has increased his focus on patients by freeing up much needed time once spent on the administrative side of running a busy practice. Much like Dr. Haas, Dr. Reitler is also aware of the tests ordered by others within the Network improving the inefficiency and duplication that he once encountered.

“As a family physician, the focus and connectivity within the Network have solved problems giving me the time to direct my attention to caring for my patients,” said Dr. Reitler.

Patients can also receive advice on healthy living. Network practitioners will provide recommendations on medical screenings and when to have them.

To create the means for this model, the Torrance Memorial Health System aligned with three established South Bay physician groups to launch the Torrance Memorial Physician Network: Torrance Family Practice, South Bay Family Medical Group and, most recently, Cancer Care Associates.

“The network is creating a more unified structure that allows us to be a total provider for our patients,” says Hugo Hool, MD, oncology, Torrance Memorial Physician Network (with Cancer Care Associates). “The coordination through the Network also makes it easier for our patients to stay close to home for their life-saving cancer treatments. Staying in the South Bay improves the social support and reduces stress for both our patients and their caregivers.”

Dr. Hool adds that his practice will be leveraging the Network to attract clinical trials to bring exciting new and innovative treatments to patients in the area before they are widely available.

The close relationship between the Torrance Memorial Physician Network and Torrance Memorial Medical Center facilitates a direct line in the event hospitalization is needed. This helps further the goal of a patient-centered environment. When necessary, and if insurance allows it, Network physicians will make a referral to a tertiary center.

“As the national health care system has evolved, so has our mission to being more than just a hospital,” says Craig Leach, president and CEO of the Torrance Memorial Health System. “We are continually looking at ways to build and refine a more integrated health care system to serve our community.”

The network is committed to providing the latest technology, which includes a Patient Portal—direct access to all personal medical information. The Patient Portal makes it easy to stay connected and manage health care online. The newly established web application will eventually provide 24/7 secure access to the following:

  • Lab results
  • Health records
  • Means to update contact information
  • Online bill paying

The Torrance Memorial Physician Network is now accepting new patients. For more information, to find a physician or to schedule an appointment, visit tmphysiciannetwork.org.

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