The Keys to an Effective After-Hours Care System

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<p>Having access to physician services after usual business hours—at night or on weekends—is an essential component of good primary care and a key to ensuring continuity in a patient's care. As part of their <a href="/publications/journal-article/2012/jul/after-hours-care-and-its-coordination-primary-care-us">Commonwealth Fund–supported study</a>, researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change interviewed physicians, practice managers, nurses, and health plan leaders from 28 organizations to identify the factors that go into after-hours care that is fully coordinated with primary care. </p><p>Physician practices can make after-hours care available to patients by forming partnerships with other practices so that physicians rotate evening and weekend shifts, by joining a cross-coverage provider network, or by entering a contractual relationship with an urgent care center or after-hours clinic. Regardless of the model used by a practice, an after-hours care system, the authors say, is more effective when an electronic health record system is in place, when there is a commitment to improving overall access to care and maintaining continuity in care, and when payers provide financial backing for this service.</p>
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