Bellevue Hospital expands primary care

Bellevue CEO William Hicks; Dr. Andrew Wallach, clinical director of ambulatory care and the clinical chief of primary care at Bellevue; and other physicians at the ribbon cutting for the newly expanded primary care center (Photo courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Hospital)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Bellevue Hospital has announced that it is expanding adult primary care services in a newly-repurposed space, with the goal of having patients be able to get treatment for different issues in one location.

The hospital’s clinic, which had already been offering some primary care services on the ambulatory care building’s second floor, has expanded to add 12 patient exams rooms and increased the available space by 2,200 square feet for a total of 13,300 square feet. Bellevue CEO William Hicks said that the clinic was able to take over space that was previously occupied by the hospital’s World Trade Center health program, which has relocated to the hospital building of Bellevue.

Dr. Ted Long, who is the vice president of ambulatory care at Bellevue, said that the new space, as well as new processes in place at the clinic, will reduce wait times for patients looking to make an appointment. The average time for new patient appointments has already been reduced to 14 days from 40.

In addition to the new space that will allow additional patients to make appointments more quickly, Long said that the clinic is also in the process of making medicine renewals available to patients over the phone, which will free up appointment slots for patients who actually need to see a physician.

“With the way we were doing it before, if a patient needed a medicine renewal, they needed to come in for an appointment every three months,” said Long, who has been a primary care physician at Bellevue for the last eight months. “There’s nothing the doctor needs to actually do (during that appointment) so now we’re in the process of allowing renewals over the phone. A clinician can renew through a call center and every time they renew over the phone, that’s a 20-minute slot that’s saved.”

Long said that patients haven’t been able to make appointments on short notice but the new space, which is also a filming location for NBC medical drama “New Amsterdam,” will allow patients to make same-day appointments or within the next week, with a third of the appointment slots available as open access.

Administrators at Bellevue also announced that the new space will allow the hospital to offer additional services as part of primary care, including a sexual health clinic focused on HIV prevention, a plant-based nutrition program, a “safety net” clinic and an expansion of addiction medicine services.

One of 12 new patient exam rooms at Bellevue Hospital’s ambulatory care building

Dr. Andrew Wallach, the clinical director of ambulatory care and the clinical chief of primary care at Bellevue, said that the “safety net” clinic is for patients who get admitted to the ER on a regular basis and who often struggle with ongoing issues such as housing instability and food insecurity.

“We’re targeting a particular population and this is a brand new program based on the recognition of need,” Wallach said. “Some people come into the emergency room for things that can be treated in primary care, like for substance and alcohol abuse. The goal is to have a place for patients to come and stabilize so they can work with their primary care doctor in a place where there’s no stigma.”

Wallach noted that the clinic partners with social workers and can also refer patients to food banks.

The plant-based nutrition program that will be at the expanded clinic is part of a new initiative from Bellevue that focuses on using food to control chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The pilot program was previously announced at the end of August and is designed to be a resource for patients who want to make healthy lifestyle changes to reduce their cardiometabolic risk through a diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The new addiction medicine available at the expanded clinic includes buprenorphine treatment for opioid addiction. Wallach said that buprenorphine is an alternative to methadone that doesn’t have to be taken daily, making it easier for patients to maintain.

Services that will continue to be available at the clinic include routine primary care, including screening for depression, as well as on-site retinal camera imaging, new patient services and chronic disease management.

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