Ohio State to open its first health clinic led by nurse practitioners

Total Health & Wellness practice represents the future of primary care

TH&W wordmark

Columbus, OH  (December 6, 2012) – The innovative infrastructure behind a new Ohio State University health and wellness practice will give patients convenient access to primary care that simultaneously addresses their physical issues as well as their mental health needs.

The practice, the first to be operated by the College of Nursing, will also be the first at Ohio State run entirely by nurse practitioners who will provide a variety of primary care services ranging from routine health screenings and school exams to immunizations, management of acute episodic and chronic illnesses, pediatrics and basic gynecological care.

The 3,400-square-foot center is targeting a Jan. 14, 2013, opening on the 12th floor of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s University Hospital East, 1492 E. Broad St. Media are invited to attend an open house at the center from 5-7 p.m. Monday (12/10).

Called Ohio State Total Health & Wellness at University Hospital East, the clinic will take the rare approach of integrating mental and physical care, coupling medical services with counseling for such problems as depression and anxiety.

In addition, special collaboratively operated programs will emphasize management of chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease; heart attack and stroke prevention; lifestyle interventions for adolescents with weight problems and depression; and a federally recommended depression screening initiative.

The center’s emphasis on nurse practitioner-led preventive care and disease management represents the future of primary care, said Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing and chief wellness officer at Ohio State. With the Affordable Care Act’s addition of an estimated 33 million insured Americans to the national health-care system, the provision of primary care will have to be flexible to keep up with demand, she said.

“This is a hot issue right now in health care reform. There is, and there is going to continue to be, a significant shortage of primary-care providers. Nurse practitioners are poised to fill that gap while providing accessible, high-quality care,” Melnyk said. “I predict that in the not-too-distant future, a substantial portion of primary care will be provided by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, so ensuring that all health-care providers are allowed to practice to their full scope will be critical for providing access and comprehensive services to all of the additional people who will soon have health insurance.”

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing. They perform physical exams, order lab tests and procedures, provide diagnostic services and treatments for acute episodic and chronic illnesses, write prescriptions, provide health and wellness education, conduct mental health counseling and coordinate referrals to specialists.

The practice will blend disciplines and foster an interprofessional team approach to care as well as to teaching and learning, which stands to boost the quality of education that Ohio State nursing and other health sciences students will receive as they obtain clinical experience at the center. In addition to a planned on-site nursing faculty practice, other interdisciplinary practice opportunities will be available for faculty in pharmacy, social work, psychiatric nursing and dietetics.

“We’re setting it all up to provide evidence-based care that follows the U.S. Preventive Services Task Forcerecommendations,” said Melnyk, also associate vice president for health promotion at Ohio State. “It will be a great model site to perform interprofessional education and practice.”

Nurse practitioner Kristie Flamm, who has worked in emergency medicine at Ohio State since 2009 and has 25 years of nursing experience, has been named director of Total Health & Wellness. Flamm said she is committed to providing a patient-centered experience to the population served by the clinic.

“We’re likely to see patients who are at risk for chronic diseases and depression, in part because they haven’t had good access to primary care,” Flamm said. “We will treat their physical ailments and address their emotional needs simultaneously with hopes that the combined approach will encourage patients to value the opportunity to receive more consistent care.”

Initially, the center will schedule appointments on 4 ½ days per week from Monday through Friday, and staff will strive to accommodate same-day requests for care. Flamm estimates that the practice will schedule up to 140 patient appointments per week, with the opportunity for expansion of services as staffing becomes available and population need dictates. 

This model presents an important opportunity for continuous care for residents of the surrounding community, said Elizabeth Seely, executive director of University Hospital East. Many people who do not have a primary care provider go to the Emergency Department there for routine care.

“We are proud to house this practice at University Hospital East, and we have high expectations that this new clinic will complement our current services by providing convenient and high-quality care in a welcoming environment,” Seely said.

The launch of Ohio State Total Health & Wellness is supported by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. Margaret Clark Graham, associate dean for advanced practice and community engagement and associate professor of nursing, spearheaded the grant application that provided funding for the interprofessional health-care delivery team.

While operating independently, Ohio State Total Health & Wellness will function as an extension of the Wexner Medical Center’s Primary Care Network and will share the medical center’s computer services for billing and medical information management. Mary Jo Welker, chair of the Department of Family Medicine, is the collaborating physician for the practice.

This new practice is one of several programs at the university funded by a one-year renewable Medicaid Technical Assistance and Policy Program (MEDTAPP) Healthcare Access Initiative (HCA) offered through the Office of Medical Assistance (Ohio Medicaid).