In late 2018, pediatric neurology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, a division of the department of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine, increased access to its services with the addition of faculty equivalent to that of two full-time neurologists. The increased staffing is integral to a process-improvement effort begun two years ago within the division.
“We worked to improve and streamline our new patient scheduling but knew that effectively implementing change depended on increasing the number of our providers,” says Christina Gurnett, MD, PhD, division director. “Essentially we had a mature clinic where we treat a large number of chronic patients. This decreased our ability to take on new patients, even though we have a high level of referrals both locally and regionally.”
Over the course of this academic year, it is estimated that pediatric neurology will increase its ambulatory clinic volume by 60 percent. Half of that increase will be in general neurology. The capacity also will be increased in April 2019 with the addition to the division of David Callahan, MD, and Sheel Pathak, MD, experienced pediatric neurologists currently practicing at Washington University Clinical Associates.
“Although we will be expanding our specialty directions, the ‘heavy lifting’ for decreasing the bottleneck for scheduling patients will fall to first-level general neurologists,” says Dr. Gurnett. “In the past when new patients were referred to us, we used information provided by referring physicians to determine urgency as well as which neurology specialist the patient should see—and then worked to get them an appointment as soon as possible. Now the general neurologists will be responsible for new patients, allowing us to respond to patients more quickly. Should these patients need a referral to a neurology subspecialist, that can be expedited by the general neurologists.”
Patients who have not previously been seen by a neurologist will no longer need to have records sent before an appointment is made. Records will continue to be required prior to scheduling new patients who already have seen a neurologist and are seeking a second opinion.
“Referring physicians, patients and their families give us high marks in regard to our breadth of expertise,” says Dr. Gurnett. “Now we are working to match those high ratings by substantially improving our front-end process, ensuring patients are seen quickly and conveniently by our exceptional pediatric neurologists.”
To speak with Dr. Gurnett or to learn more about the department of pediatric neurology, call Children’s Direct at 800.678.HELP (4357).