Patient Engagement Center to Serve as One-Stop Shop for Patient Questions, Scheduling

Hospitals and doctors’ offices can be complex networks for patients to navigate. Consider a patient who first visits an urgent care center, is then admitted to the hospital, sees a specialist for follow-up care, may have a procedure, works with our Case Management team and then pays their bill. One of the benefits of an academic medical center like Albany Medical Center is the vast pool of resources available for patients all along their journey to healing. But that also means there are a lot of names—and numbers—to remember. In this case, it’s six different departments.

“All we want our patients to focus on is getting better,” said Cathy Pallozzi, assistant vice president of hospital registration and access. “With only one number to call, they can rest assured their scheduling needs will be taken care of in a single place—one pathway to point them wherever they need to go.”

A new Patient Engagement Center will do just that. Expected to open late 2021/early 2022, the Patient Engagement Center will streamline and enhance the experience for Albany Medical Center’s patients. It will be a central access point for scheduling provider or hospital services, checking eligibility and benefits, financial information, referral and authorization management.

The Patient Engagement Center will have one phone number and staff will represent many different areas. This new department will harness the expertise of colleagues across the Medical Center, and later, affiliates of the Albany Med Health System.

“The Patient Engagement Center will be a one-stop gateway for access of services for hospital and physician services at Albany Medical Center,” Pallozzi said. “We will provide the best experience for our patients to access the services they need. It is transformational for us—a new way of thinking that also prepares us for even more internal and external efficiencies.”

One such example is the implementation of a uniform electronic health record (EHR). Starting at Albany Medical Center, then expanding to Columbia Memorial Health, Glens Falls Hospital and Saratoga Hospital, a shared, uniform EHR will build greater connections for patients and providers wherever care is delivered across the System. With a patient’s whole health story in view, diagnoses are ensured to include as much information as possible, and transitions between different points of care will be seamless. The new EHR will allow the hospital and practice to share the same platform for ease of gathering information as well as providing information to patients in need of services.

Albany Medical Center studied many different models in developing its Patient Engagement Center. The Mayo Clinic, Penn Medicine, Tennessee’s Vanderbilt Health and Mass General Brigham are among the systems that have successfully implemented a central access point like the Patient Engagement Center. As the Albany Med Health System grows, so too will the Patient Engagement Center, with the goal of serving patients anywhere in the System.

“As the name suggests, we are putting patients first,” said Christine Selke, director of clinical operations, who is working with Pallozzi and a team of clinical and nonclinical staff members to structure the Patient Engagement Center. “Our care team can also spend more time with our patients. It’s a win-win, and it brings us all together.”

The Patient Engagement Center team also met with the Patient and Family Advisory Council of the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital to hear perspectives on access and care directly from patient families. The council gives a voice to parents of former and current patients with a broad range of experiences to provide insights for improving programs and services. As it is throughout Albany Medical Center, staff retention is a critical piece of the Patient Engagement Center project. Advancement opportunities will be based on experience and skills that quite often have been obtained by working at Albany Medical Center. Staff will receive specialized training to work in “pods” responsible for supporting specific service lines.

“We are proud of the comprehensive care we prove our community,” Selke said. “The Patient Engagement Center is the next step in our continuous efforts to elevate our mission.”