YNHHS to launch tool, workflows to improve access to care for patients with disabilities

Beginning Aug. 25, YNHHS will launch a screening tool and workflows in Epic to help providers identify patients with disabilities and ensure they receive the health services they need to achieve the best possible health outcomes.

A multidisciplinary, YNHHS Clinical Redesign team developed the workflows, designed to screen patients for disability, document disabilities in Epic, request special accommodations and document that special accommodations were rendered.

Providing access to high-value, patient-centered care is part of Yale New Haven Health’s vision. This includes bringing YNHHS programs, services and skilled personnel into our communities, and providing ways for people with disabilities to confidently interact and communicate with healthcare providers.

“Access to health care requires the timely use of personal health services to put patients on course for a positive experience with our health system, which leads to a positive health outcome,” said Luming Li, MD, physician partner for the Clinical Redesign project. “These new workflows will help providers and clinicians identify the patient’s specific needs – physical, behavioral or communication-related – that may create challenges in delivering that high-quality care.”

Dr. Li explained that a patient’s disability status, accommodations and scheduling to include accessible medical equipment are not routinely documented in the Epic electronic medical record. The Clinical Redesign project aimed to document disability status and the encounter in the medical record; trigger accommodations to be requested; document accommodations provided; and develop appropriate workflows.

Patients arriving for services at any entry point will be screened for disability status, and their information documented and available for future visits. The screening tool will be asked for:

  • New YNHHS patients (including those using the YM Care Center)
  • Existing/returning patients who are being scheduled for future outpatient/ ambulatory visits. (The screening tool will not be asked when appointments are being made/scheduled for Heart and Vascular Center procedures, blood draw or surgery)
  • Pre-op phone calls

With the Epic upgrade, staff documenting disabilities will see a storyboard icon of a patient raising their hand, representing disability. The icon will appear only if a screening tool question has an affirmative response. Hovering over the icon will open a window that displays information from the flowsheet and/or demographics section.

“This project took tremendous coordination and teamwork, but will dramatically benefit patients and their families,” said Crystal Clemons, Clinical Redesign project manager.

“Documenting disability status will allow us to better meet the needs of our patients with disabilities, ensuring better health outcomes and experience,” said project lead Gayle Slossberg, vice president, YNHHS Corporate Compliance and chief compliance and integrity officer. “This process will improve the way we work with people of all abilities, from the patient’s first point of contact through every step in that patient’s healthcare journey.”