McLaren Caro Region implements new emergency department partnership with American Physician Partners

A visit to the emergency room can be one of the most stressful, unpredictable, and potentially frustrating experiences of a person’s life.

But a new partnership at McLaren Caro Region, along with a host of patient-centered initiatives, could ease some of that experience as part of an effort to decrease wait times, make diagnosis more efficient and accurate, and improve patient satisfaction.

Marc Augsburger, CEO
Marc Augsburger, President and CEO of McLaren Caro Region.

“The Emergency Department is always the front door to the hospital” says Marc Augsburger, president and CEO of McLaren Caro Region. “At this point of entry into the hospital system, you must be ready at all times with top notch, well trained healthcare providers.”

A new partnership

Augsburger says the most important place to make that impression is through the hospital’s staff, which influences everything from patient wait times and physician accuracy, to whether or not patients feel both physically and emotionally cared for. Securing a partnership with an effective and proven emergency department staffing agency is a critical component to the health of the people a hospital serves.

“We needed a partner who shared our vision and would be able to improve the metrics that McLaren uses to evaluate their emergency departments and we believe that American Physician Partners is a great fit,” he says.

American Physician Partners (APP) is an emergency medicine management company focused on providing qualified care providers and management services to hospitals while placing an emphasis on developing local leaders, creating a team-based culture, and establishing long-term stability within a department.

Through APP’s approach to staffing and department culture, Gadsden Regional Medical Center in Gadsen, Alabama, saw a 47 percent decrease in patients who left without treatment, a 34 percent reduction in door-to-bedtime, and decreased the average length of stay by 87 minutes.

Along with improving the efficiency of the emergency department, Augsburger says McLaren is establishing new initiatives aimed to improve the interactions between physicians and patients.

Improving both physical and emotional care

“Patient satisfaction is extremely important to us and we take each patient and family member’s experience very seriously,” he says. “We want to assure everyone that we’re here to listen, to take care of them in the best possible way, making sure that no one feels like ‘just a number’.”

“Our staff work very hard to listen carefully to each patient and their family and then make sure that our communication back to them and with them is understood,” Augsburger says. “Critical messages can be misunderstood during these stressful times and we want to make certain that our message delivery is clear and concise. Our staff work very hard to bridge the gap between physicians and patients which can contribute to the overall healing process.”

Brad Blaker, DO
Brad Blaker, DO

Leading the emergency department as medical director, Brad Blaker, DO, comes with over 20 years of emergency department experience.

“The key part of a medical director’s job is to get physicians, staff, and patients all working together as a cohesive team,” Augsburger says. “Dr. Blaker has that ability. He’s able to put on his administrative hat and understands the requirements for our metrics while making sure things are done right. But more importantly, he’s able to connect those things to the frontline of the emergency department and everything in between: from what’s happening on the floor, to what’s happening with surgical specialists, to building relationships with patients. Bridging those gaps and executing the various elements across teams takes a certain kind of leader, and Dr. Blaker has demonstrated that he is that kind of leader.”

A new effort to exceed expectations

“I think working clinical shifts is a huge piece of being a medical director,” says Dr. Blaker. “It would be very difficult for me to effect change, see how the providers work, and understand the problems our hospital partners face if I wasn’t working on the floor with them.”

Along with giving perspective to his work as medical director, Dr. Blaker says his hands-on care helps support the message that the emergency department exists for the sole purpose of taking care of people.

“I want to communicate that we are here to take care of patients, and that taking care of patients has to be the primary focus of the nursing staff, the support staff, the provider staff, and everybody who interacts with a patient or a patient’s family in the emergency department.”

An emergency department medical director is responsible for interacting with administration and providers, as well as other departments within the hospital to coordinate health care efforts and prevent bottlenecks between departments. In Dr. Blaker’s case, he also takes on clinical shifts to continue providing direct patient care.

“I also monitor metrics like throughput times and patients who left-without-being-seen, and as I monitor those metrics, I perform administrative duties to make sure all the providers have the tools they need,” he says. 

Dr. Blaker says having a consistent staffing pattern, as well as having effective plans and processes in place are the keys to improving those metrics, especially when the emergency department sees a sudden increase in patients.

“On any given day, we can go from having zero patients in the department to having 5 patients within an hour. So what do you do with that volume when it shows up? It’s having the processes in place and the team coming together to push through and take care of the patients.”

Even with all his duties, Dr. Blaker says it’s his responsibility to go beyond the job description.

“One of APP’s goals when it forms a new partnership is to exceed the expectations of patients, providers, and hospital partners,” he says.

The changing face of medicine

“The changing face of medicine is all customer-service related,” he says. “It all starts with just being nice. I want that bolstered on the front door of the hospital. I want the staff to be able to communicate to patients that they understand that they’re scared, they’re hurt, and they have concerns because it goes beyond treating patients like customers - it’s just the right thing to do.”

What does Dr. Blaker want these new plans, processes, and patient-centered initiatives to accomplish for the emergency department? 

“I want the reputation of the emergency department to be exceptional; this means the reputations of the medical staff, the administration, the community-based physicians. The patients from the community - I want them coming to this emergency department. That’s what I want. I don’t want them to say ‘Fill in the blank’ is better than we are. When they think about emergency services, I want them to think McLaren Caro Region.”

Rvonne Vandecar
Yvonne Vandecar, RN, BSN, Med/Surg Coordinator


Yvonne Vandecar is a registered nurse that works on both the med/surg floor and in the emergency department. She says she “loves to make a difference in the lives of others.   We often see people during the worst moments of their lives. We don’t have many resources that some of the larger hospitals have, therefore we rely heavily on our physicians.”

Vandecar states that teamwork is what makes the emergency department a place for life-saving health care instead of chaos. “We have really been working on our teamwork over the last two years not only in the nursing department but throughout all of the hospital and adding Dr. Blaker to the team is helping to bring in the emergency department physicians too, Vandecar says.

The physicians have built a positive rapport within the hospital.  Not only do they bring positive energy and enthusiasm, they take their time in treating each patient while listening to their concerns. It is refreshing to know the physicians are passionate about the care they give their patients; providing genuine and compassionate care which is making a difference in our whole community.

What to expect

How will a patient’s experience at McLaren Caro Region improve because of this new partnership and these patient-centered initiatives?

“Overall patient satisfaction has already improved,” Augsburger says. “The emergency department will feel more friendly and inviting, and our patients really feel like they’re being listened to and understood.”

Augsburger also says having new leadership and improved teamwork will decrease the total length of stay at the hospital, and improve overall clinical care.

“This is an exciting time for us as we continue to grow and improve to better help the people who are entrusting us with their lives,” he says. “Our partnership with APP and these new initiatives will allow us to serve the community more quickly and more effectively, as well as offer better value and quality.”