PCMS and PCPA Launch Effort to Improve Health Literacy

The Pierce County Medical Society and Pierce County Project Access are launching a joint long term effort to improve health literacy among the county's citizens across all demographics and patient populations.  Both organizations will be working with health care providers including independent practices, CHI Franciscan, and MultiCare to learn about their own endeavors in this regard with their patient populations.  The goal of these efforts will be to augment best practices to steer more patients to the right physicians and correct care settings to improve the quality of appropriate care, raise population health standards, and reduce costs. 

It has been estimated by front line hospital staff that as many as 80% of the patients in emergency departments at any given time are not in need of emergency services and could have their care delivered in far less expensive and far more appropriate settings such as urgent care or physician offices.  This ongoing situation overburdens physicians and other staff in the ED setting and negatively impacts costs for the health systems, insurers, employers, insured patients paying high premiums and deductibles, and taxpayers.  Furthermore, patients often wait until a situation is acute to seek medical care thereby overwhelming primary care, specialties such as gastroenterologists, and emergency departments. 


Broadly educating the patient population about the importance of preventive care, the advantages of establishing a relationship with a primary care physician, and what options they have with regard to various care settings depending on their unique circumstances (insured through private payers, Medicare, Medicaid, uninsured) can help reduce costs, reduce stress on physicians, and assist providers including the health systems in having patients connected to the most appropriate settings. 


With regard to this joint initiative, PCMS Executive Director Bruce Ehrle stated, "As part of the medical society's ongoing commitment to improve population health in Pierce County including through our Social Determinants of Health Workgroup that seeks to help physicians actively participate in this crucial approach to patient care, we are excited to join with Project Access to try to do our part to improve health literacy in this community.  With our organization's long history of seeking to improve practice success for physicians and PAs in Pierce County and with my background in health care policy implementation, I believe that we can make a positive contribution toward raising patient awareness of their health care choices over the course of their lives, thereby helping to reduce the burdens that so many physicians are facing in different care settings due to the lack of such awareness."


Pierce County Project Access Executive Director Leanne Noren added, "With Project Access' demonstrated history of working effectively in partnership with providers including the large health systems, our deep reach in to different sectors of the patient population, and our relationships with community-based organizations, PCPA is well positioned to be a vibrant partner with PCMS in this immensely important area to provide access to health care for the people of Pierce County in settings that will improve their overall health, improve their experience, improve stress on the system at key points such as EDs and some specialties, and cut costs in truly meaningful ways."​


PCMS and PCPA will provide further updates about this initiative as provider consultation and patient outreach is conducted over the coming months.