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Primary Doctors See Influx of Patients

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Fewer people are going to the emergency room, and more patients are visiting primary doctors. That’s leading to a slowing down of spending growth, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

These trends are a combination of coordinated care efforts part of the hospitals’ plan to get patients to maintain good health.

The Oregon Health Authority says over the last year, CCOs have guided patients into primary care doctor’s offices. And while more people get that kind of care, local offices are preparing for yet another influx in patients.

Local resident Leann Tucker has a spring in her step, because she avoided hospitalization by seeing a doctor when she had a foot infection.

“Every single day I have to stand on my feet for a living,” Tucker said. “You can see them on a much smaller scale economically and…going into the ER, spending thousands of dollars on a regular office visit it’s not going to cost that much.”

She’s one of the many patients that health care providers push toward primary care. Oregon Health Plan’s coordinated care organizations guide patients away from the ER.

“So they’re getting care that they need in their doctor’s offices that is aligned, looking at the whole body, thinking about their history, all their medications they’re on, and managing their care in that setting rather than going into the emergency room and getting new medication for one urgent situation and not really managing their whole historical care,” said Jennifer Lind of Jackson Care Connect.

And after a year, the rate of growth slowed 1 percent. Meanwhile, Providence is hiring a new provider to keep up with Affordable Care Act patients in January.

“Our goal is to bring in enough providers to handle the influx of new patients, and we’re also looking at different ways to do things so that we can actually see more people in less time,” said Eric Leal, Providence Clinic Manager.

So there’s less time getting health care as a whole to get you back on your feet.

“Now I’m back to work, back with my family and back to doing what I love,” Tucker said.

At this point it’s hard to tell exactly how big the influx of new patients will be come Jan. 1. For now, Providence is bringing on one new nurse practitioner in December to help with the extra demand.