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Emergency room 'guides' connect patients to the right care
Providence Health & Services Patient Guide Team
Patient Guide Team: Includes guides, project team, and sponsors, from left to right: Jane Massett, Rebecca Perin, Dave Underriner, Hannah Lobingier, Pam Mariea-Nason, Barry Brown, Lauren Elbert, Victoria Emerson-Kress, Akiko Betcher, Adele Hughes and Shelley Yoder, Not Pictured: Keyana Azari, Elizabeth Krigbaum, Laurinda Beckham and Bonnie Forsh.

Nov. 30, 2012 (Portland) — One of the ways Oregon's health care transformation aims to save money is by encouraging individuals to use primary care rather than the emergency room for routine health care needs. But sometimes patients – especially if they're under- or uninsured – have trouble finding a primary care doctor, much less getting an appointment.

One Portland-area provider is tackling this problem with a personal touch.

"We have a responsibility to help patients who are having a difficult time navigating the health system." ~ Providence's Community Health Executive Pamela Mariea-Nason, R.N., M.B.A.

Providence Health & Services, a member of the new Health Share of Oregon coordinated care organization, is helping patients get connected to the right level of care by placing a new kind of health care worker in the emergency room – a person called a "Patient Guide." The Patient Guide helps patients connect to care at the appropriate location, such as a primary care or immediate care clinic. Guides also provide patients with additional resources, such as information about and connections to persistent pain programs, social and mental health services, and food banks.

"We have a responsibility to help patients who are having a difficult time navigating the health system," says Pamela Mariea-Nason, R.N., M.B.A, Providence's community health executive. "Helping patients access primary care will improve their health and ultimately reduce the cost of health care for everyone."

The Emergency Services Patient Guide program has been instituted in Providence Portland and Providence Milwaukie Hospitals with plans to launch the program at Providence St. Vincent Hospital by year's end. A Health Share of Oregon Health Commons Grant is funding the expansion. "We have helped over 3,200 patients thus far," said Mariea-Nason, "and we hope to help many more as we expand the service."