Norwalk Community Health Center: Dr. David Savarese, Medical Director

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In just 12 short years of being opened as a federally qualified community health center, Norwalk Community Health Center has seen huge changes in quality, service, and facility size. The center opened in 1999 in a 10,000-square-foot building in Norwalk, Conn. Today, the center is located in a 24,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that serves 11,000 residents and provides more than 42,000 medical office visits every year.

The center offers services in three major departments–adult medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. Norwalk also has a social-service department and an eligibility department, which helps people who are eligible for insurance obtain insurance. The facility also provides free transportation to qualified patients.

With the recent move into a large facility, Norwalk has hired additional medical staff as well as a new chief medical officer, director of operations, and an EMR manager to oversee implementation efforts of the GE Centricity electronic medical records system.

Putting patients first

Dr. David Savarese, Norwalk’s Medical Director, said with the growth and expansion, a major effort has been underway at the facility to improve patient satisfaction through better customer-services skills. Having spent 20 years in community health, Savarese brought his knowledge to the staff, adding training for all staff in customer service.

“I couldn’t imagine a better place to work than Norwalk,” he said. “Every person here is gifted at interacting with the public, they are always smiling, always professional and enthusiastic about doing the best job they can do.”

However, this staff has developed from the intense focus placed on customer service. Savarese said he couldn’t say the same about the atmosphere when he first joined Norwalk, but the staff that wasn’t on board with the changes found other opportunities and new hires were chosen for their alignment with Norwalk’s key values.

In addition to staff interaction, Savarese also made improvements to scheduling, decreasing wait times, and increasing efficiency and patient flow throughout the office, which also contributed to patient satisfaction. Patients are more often scheduled with their regular doctor and not the covering physician.

Commitment to quality and meaningful use

Today, quality, efficiency, and electronic medical records tend to go hand-in-hand. Norwalk implemented Centricity in the pediatrics department in 2009, then moved to adult medicine in April 2010 and to OB/GYN in October 2010. The center is steadily looking at ways to use the system’s features to improve quality and efficiency and is on track to achieve meaningful use.

Norwalk has implemented the labs, orders, and referrals modules offered by the EMR and coordinates closely with the Information Technology Department of Norwalk Hospital to improve the flow of data from the hospital to the individual patient records at the center.

Savarese said quality is one of the top priorities of the center, looking at improving scores on clinical measures and improving the number of patients who receive preventive-health measures such as annual screenings. The EMR has been an excellent tool for monitoring these quality measures, and the center is looking toward further increasing its capability in reporting on quality measures.

Continuing growth into the future

Savarese expects that over the coming years, the demand for healthcare services will increase, particularly for community health centers as more people receive Medicaid or Medicare.

“We are the primary people that serve the Medicaid population,” he said. “We expect that demand to increase and are ensuring that we have the capability to deliver those services.”

Despite tremendous growth in its short history, Norwalk is looking for even more expansion in the future. Norwalk has applied to become a certified Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), which is a national initiative. A Patient-Centered Medical Home provides coordinated primary care for adults and children in a manner that treats patients and their families as partners along with their physician in making healthcare decisions. Norwalk is also seeking certification to provide behavioral health services.

Through these improvements, Norwalk is committed to providing the best care possible to its patients.

“We want to make it such that everyone would want to have us as their healthcare provider,” Savarese said.

-by Patricia Chaney

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