NETWORKING: Representatives from more than 60 area service providers discuss ways to improve patient care.

  • Staff Reports
  • Jun 14, 2017

James Neiss/staff photographer
Michael Williams with the Buffalo Federation Neighborhood Center says a few words to his conference colleagues. Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center held a day-long conference Wednesday at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel, bringing together more than 140 representatives from community based organizations across Niagara County in an effort to better focus the delivery of care in the community.

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has, in recent years, undertaken an effort to consolidate, streamline and better connect the numerous treatments and services it offers in an effort to stem social and economic factors that damage community health.

On Wednesday, the hospital took part in a conference involving more than 60 local service organizations in an attempt to establish a similar network with shared goals among the providers.

It’s something the medical center’s COO Sheila Kee called a “coalition of the willing,” or more formally, “the Niagara Community Partnership Project.”

About 140 attendees were present at the conference, held at the Four Points by Sheridan on Buffalo Avenue, to discuss the initiative. The broad goal is to improve the level of care coordination between health care providers and community agencies.

The keynote speaker was Paul Hogan, executive vice president of the John R. Oishei Foundation. The Buffalo-based foundation enhances the economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region through grant-making, leadership and network building.

Kee said that means devising “ways we can work more effectively for vulnerable people in our community.” At the medical center, the philosophy is called a “full circle of care.”

“That circle of care has to expand greatly now to make sure that these community groups join us along the perimeter of the circle,” Kee said.

Tammy Fox, a director of project management with Millennium Collaborative Care, said getting people to the right organizations for social or economic support will drive down unnecessary hospital visits by keeping a closer eye on, and coordinating, a larger scope of care.

“You peel back the onion and understand what are those drivers of utilization,” she said of the group’s work.

The conference was an educational session on what tactics have been used to accomplish the goal in other areas and what imminent changes may come to local health care systems, but also a networking event for the local service agencies’ leaders.

From the conference, Kee said the medical center will draft a series of “follow-up actions” for the group to further develop specific recommendations, such as what systems will need to be implemented to handle the coordination between agencies and providers. Another will be determining how to efficiently train the staff of various services to apply new systems.

Developing successful two-way communications will be a step in the right direction, Kee said. In a survey distributed to the attending organizations, Kee said the medical center determined two-thirds of them were using fax machines or telephones to make patient referrals

There are now digital and web-based options to replace the antiquated methods, Kee said. Perhaps grant funding can be secured to further that mission, she added.

Such conversations are particularly worth having in the current political climate, according to Kee. She referenced proposed changes to Medicaid and health insurance enrollment under the American Health Care Act recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and, in addition, other proposed federal budget cuts.

“There’s going to be a lot fewer resources available down the line,” she said. “We better make sure we know how to effectively use whatever dollars are left.”

James Neiss/staff photographer



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