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XLer of the week: Pepper Barrera

Pepper Barrera, 47th Medical Group utilization and case manager, was chosen by wing leadership to be the “XLer” of the week, for the week of April 22, 2019, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The “XLer” award, presented by Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, is given to those who consistently make outstanding contributions to their unit and the Laughlin mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anne McCready)

Pepper Barrera, 47th Medical Group utilization and case manager, writes a note at her desk at the 47th MDG at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas April 24, 2019. As a utilization case manager at Laughlin’s medical clinic, Barrera’s job is patient centered, ensuring military beneficiaries, active duty and dependents receive the best care possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anne McCready)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Pepper Barrera, 47th Medical Group utilization and case manager, was chosen by wing leadership to be the “XLer” of the week, for the week of April 22, 2019, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

The “XLer” award, presented by Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, is given to those who consistently make outstanding contributions to their unit and the Laughlin mission.

As a utilization case manager at Laughlin’s medical clinic, Barrera’s job is patient centered, ensuring military beneficiaries, active duty and dependents receive the best care possible.

Barrera created a utilization management system for Laughlin’s Family Health Clinic which assigned degrees of urgency to 371 post-ER patients. This saved the clinic time, while still caring for Airmen and their families, and it saved the U.S. Air Force $180,000.

One of the main programs Barrera works with is the emergency room follow-up appointment for the patient. According to Barrera, this follow-up is critical to make sure Team XL patients receive the care they need and any referrals for continuity of care.

“I monitor and help reduce avoidable emergency room visits with an ER follow up, patient education, and schedule follow up with the primary care manager as needed,” Barrera said. “For example, if someone has a broken bone and is seen in the ER, my job is to make sure they have a follow-up with an orthopedic specialist or any other specialists a patient might need.”

Barrera also coordinated home health care, which integrated the primary care manager team. She conducted home visits and preparing quarters, easing the patients’ transition at discharge.

“As a case manager, I coordinate the care and service of [certain] medical patients to promote collaborative practice and continuity of care,” Barrera said. “If a patient has been hospitalized and is discharged home, I coordinate with the case managers and discharge planners at the facility to make sure the patient has the proper, durable medical equipment needed in the home and also make sure homecare is set up as needed.”

Staying busy, Barrera led the case management team in researching and tracking approximately 400 specialty referrals, which brought a three-month backlog up-to-date. During a family health care staffing shortage, she assisted by assessing records and referrals, expediting the care the 47th MDG was able to provide its patients.  

“My job also involves a lot of collaboration with the physicians, my fellow nurses and the technicians,” Barrera said. “I am very grateful and honored to work with a team who is compassionate and provides trusted care at the highest level.” 

Barrera earned this week’s “XLer” through stepping up when manning was low, always looking for a way to better treat patients and the way she betters the Air Force.

“The thing that makes my job special is beneficiaries trust me at a critical and vulnerable time in their lives,” Barrera said. “The XLer award is a great honor and I will continue to work with my amazing team members to provide trusted care to our beneficiaries.”