One of my main roles as Patient Navigator I at the Princeton Vision Clinic at the Illinois Eye Institute is to manage patient referrals for our pediatric patients and keep track of who I’ve spoken to, managed to contact, and made appointments for. At first glance, I thought that this would be relatively straightforward, but as I began to immerse myself every afternoon in referral management, barriers to even contacting the parents became apparent. Full voicemail boxes, a wrong number provided in paperwork, a disconnect tone, or guardians not receiving the referral in the first place from their child after their school field trip.
I realized that in order to reach more patients and their parents, I had to change my approach and be persistent, and ultimately be patient. Calling multiple times a week, tracking down an email, and texting the parent through an online number were all ways that I saw referral appointments increase. There were plenty of logistical reasons we were unable to reach parents on the first try, and it would usually be that during business hours, the parents were also at work. If all else failed, and the patient came on a school field trip, I would contact the school nurse to relay that the patient needed a referral.
Follow-up care is important, as many of these kids have eye conditions that can be reversed and treated as long as they get the proper care. Without the proper care, there are many implications, a large one being educational. Without proper vision, kids are more disadvantaged at school because they have to strain to be able to read, write, and view information on the board.
Through finding new ways to contact parents and school nurses, I have found that the amount of kids getting follow-up care have been increasing. It is so fulfilling to see the familiar names of children I’ve tried to contact on the daily schedule.
During COVID-19, however, our routine eye care clinic is closed for the foreseeable future and I have been serving from home. A big part of serving from home for me has been tracking diagnostic data on patients and follow-up use of our services. Putting our efforts into displaying concrete data and then analyzing that data will allow us to not only receive funding from our stakeholders, but also see how to better reach our patients.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2019-20 member Prema Kondragunta.
Prema is a Patient Navigator at Illinois Eye Institute at Princeton Vision Clinic.