Townsend to Focus on Quality Patient Experience
By Jon Parham
Though she’s spent only a few months as head of UAMS Medical Center, Roxane A. Townsend, M.D.’s 30 years’ experience in health care has shown her that UAMS is poised to thrive.
By continuing to focus on a quality patient experience, UAMS will be able to work through the impending changes in the American health care system, she said.
The medical center’s new chief executive officer brings a unique perspective to the job, having worked as a nurse and physician before moving into hospital administration.
“UAMS already offers so much and is known across the state, region and nation for excellence in many of its clinical programs, so there is a strong foundation on which to build,” said Townsend. “We must make sure we have a patient experience that makes patients want to make us their medical home — and not just come here for a particular program.”
Townsend took the reins Feb. 1 of the hospital and its network of clinics and specialists. In addition to hospital CEO, she serves as UAMS vice chancellor for clinical programs. She previously served as assistant vice president for health systems at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge. In that role, she worked with the system’s 10 hospitals and their clinics in the development of operational strategies and system-wide policies.
To Townsend, “patient experience” is not just about medical outcome but includes a commitment to patient- and family-centered care. The patient must be able to trust that the care they receive is the best and most appropriate.
In the future, a quality patient experience may include stronger affiliations with physicians and hospitals around the state.
It will certainly include improved electronic medical records systems and networks for sharing information so that when patients are referred to UAMS they will not face the potential for duplicate tests. UAMS recently became part of the State Health Alliance for Records Exchange (SHARE) network that affords health care providers throughout the state with secure, real-time access to electronic patient health information.
“A strong, secure electronic health information exchange across providers builds trust and satisfaction for patients and is more cost-effective for providers,” Townsend said.
The goal is creating a seamless network for patients to receive the best care.
“What we don’t want to do, though, is disrupt the primary care relationship between a patient and his or her local doctor,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable that when they refer a patient to UAMS, and that patient returns to his primary care physician, we will be able to provide them a full understanding on what we did and why so they will be able to continue care.”
Another evolving element is transitioning from fee-for-service to bundled payments for an entire episode of care. That care could include pre-care and post-care services, such as rehabilitation or hospice, so will require teamwork and coordination among various providers.
“Health care is still expensive and we must manage patient expectations,” she said. “We need to have a trusting relationship with every patient so they will understand why a procedure may or may not be necessary.”
Townsend is confident. “We can be a leader in patient- and family-centered care — bringing together our resources and coordinating with other care providers to create a strong, integrated health system in Arkansas.”