Brooke MD Primary Care, honored as Huntsville's Medical Practice of the Year, utilizes an innovative patient care model. In response to the shortage of primary care physicians, Dr. Brooke Uptagrafft manages three nurse practitioners who are the principal patient care providers. This enables the staff to be more responsive and to see more patients every day.
The nurse practitioners perform annual exams and manage chronic illnesses the same way a doctor does. Under Alabama law, nurse practitioners are required to have a collaborating physician and must meet with that doctor at least once a quarter. Brooke MD is different because Uptagrafft collaborates with her nurse practitioners daily.
"I'm in the office when the nurse practitioners are seeing patients," Uptagrafft says. "I review their notes, labs and imaging services. I'm available to answer questions or to see one of their patients if needed. We work together, and it allows us to provide more same-day appointments for our patients when needed.
"Many primary care and urgent care settings use nurse practitioners in separate satellite locations," Uptagrafft says. "We are different because our nurse practitioners are very close with me. We not only see patients together, but we also review labs and imaging results together. We work as a team to make sure our entire patient population is taken care of.
"It has made a world of difference in the efficiency of our practice as well as with patient satisfaction. Responsiveness to our patient's needs has improved tremendously. Many clinics struggle to get patients in for office visits in a timely manner and to respond to messages from patients within the same day. We are doing this in a matter of hours."
Amy Pittman is one of the nurse practitioners at Brooke MD and enjoys being a part of the staff. "Our clinic is unique in that our nurse practitioner role is vital to our primary care model. We triage patients and offer more accessibility for them which allows us to see more people each day," she says. "We have a great collaborative physician in Dr. Brooke, and it is reassuring that she is close by in case we have questions."
Pittman particularly likes being able to get to know patients along their families. "I can provide better care when I understand their background and what is going on in their lives," she says. "I think that's something that is missing in most outpatient settings."
Uptagrafft points out that with the increased complexity of our health care system, patients must rely on providers to help them navigate the system. All new Brooke MD patients receive an orientation, and the staff public relations coordinator explains each patient's insurance coverage to them. "Figuring out insurance agreements, deductibles and copays is complicated enough, not to mention obtaining your own personal medical information, needed referrals, prescription management through specific pharmacies and scheduling the appointments you need in a timely manner," she says. "My vision is to focus on improved education and to simplify things where we can."
The use of technology makes it easier to offer quality health care, and each new patient is set up to use the Brooke MD patient portal where they can see their personal medical records, lab results, medical history, and referrals. Patients also can use the portal to communicate with the medical staff.
"We use the portal heavily, and we've become more accessible than ever to our patients through the web message feature on our patient portal," Uptagrafft says. "Send me, my staff or nurse practitioners a message any time and we strive to respond within two business hours. We communicate with our patients much more frequently on the portal than by phone."
Both patients and staff are benefitting from these innovative processes. The practice is preparing to move to a larger location that offers more space to incorporate additional services, including counseling and nutrition education. "The change in location will also include a name change to Innova Primary Care. Innova is the Latin word for 'renew' and the root word for innovate," Uptagrafft says. "The new name represents what we are trying to do with our practice as we strive to provide the best, compassionate medical care possible and to leverage incredible technological advances to do so."