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Patient guides provide options, better care for emergency patients

Imagine having limited or no access to health care but needing treatment for a toothache, back pain or a chronic condition, such as diabetes. It may seem the only solution is going to the ER.

When Providence’s Emergency Department Patient Guide Program began two years ago, the goal was to help inform, educate and guide thousands of patients toward other options and better health. “We talk with our patients about all their health care options,” says Jillian Schrupp, regional manager for the program, explaining that a respectful tone and approach are key. “It’s pretty empowering to help patients see they have choices.”

The guides find appointments and primary care providers through community partner clinics, connect patients with community health services, track down free or low-cost dental services and call patients for follow up. The program’s 11 guides work in Providence hospitals in Portland and Medford and have served nearly 15,000 patients since 2011. 

Keyana Azari is a patient guide based at Providence Milwaukie Hospital. “Our patient population leads very complex lives, and their medical situation has a lot to do with their life circumstances,” she says. “I like to ask my patients questions to help them think about their health outcomes. We get to the level where we talk as friends.” 

She remembers one patient who came to the ED with an injured leg. He needed orthopedic surgery, but with no job he couldn’t afford it. Azari helped him make arrangements for the surgery at a greatly reduced cost and says simply, “Our work directly aligns with the Providence Mission. We work almost exclusively with the poor and vulnerable, and we truly care about them.”