Dell Medical School pilot program cuts patient wait times

Areeba Khwaja

A pilot program launched by Dell Medical School, CommUnityCare Health Centers and Community Care Collaborative, has reduced wait times for women in Travis County who have no insurance or low incomes. 

The program has managed to reduce wait times by more than four weeks. Previously, these women waited approximately 55 days to get appointments or to receive treatment for their conditions. Now, the wait time is 24 days for first-time appointments and only 10 days for follow-up appointments, according to a press release from Dell Medical School. 

The program treats women who have a condition that falls under the umbrella of pelvic floor disorders. According to the National Institutes of Health, pelvic floor disorders result from weakened or injured muscles and connective tissue in the pelvic area, often leading to incontinence or bladder pain. One in four adult women in the U.S. suffer from at least one pelvic floor disorder, according to a 2014 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“The pilot is a new model where a team of providers, including a nurse practitioner, pelvic floor therapist, a specialist and a social worker, practice collaboratively to better address the needs of the patient,” said Dr. Amy Young, chair of Dell Medical School’s Department of Women’s Health. “We aim to collect as much information from patients prior to the visit to maximize our time with a patient.”

Patient cases are reviewed in conferences prior to their appointment so that a potential plan for care is already established. 

“These changes ensure that patients arrive and that they can start the care journey without a lot of wasted time finding records,” said the Women’s Health team at CommUnityCare Clinic.

Patients do their part by completing patient-reported outcomes before their visit. At their first point of contact, patients see a nurse practitioner who follows an evidence-based pathway to care. If needed, the nurse practitioner can then forward the patient to a specialist, a requirement for only 20 percent of patients. 

“The visit is guided by patient goal-setting and their own reported outcomes,” Young said. “Each provider works at the top of their training, guided by a care pathway established by best available evidence. Thus, we are able to meet the needs of more patients in a better way.”

The pilot program has also started offering in-house pelvic floor physical therapy and behavioral health services to more comprehensively address the needs of their patient population socially and emotionally. 

In the future, there are plans to open two more integrated practice units, or units organized around a particular medical condition, in the Women’s Health Institute that will focus on chronic pelvic pain and vulvovaginal disorders. 

“We will eventually open a number of care pathways for women that include treatments for cancer and other complex conditions,” said the Women’s Health team at CommUnityCare Clinic. “We are always committed to measuring the outcomes that matter to patients to measure how good our care is.”