Our current healthcare system allows things like finance, technology access, and administration issues to influence patient health outcomes. The focus has been taken away from the patient and their concerns. This is unfortunate since the goal of all healthcare providers is the same: to provide the best health outcomes to all those who come to us for help.
The result is a system that deprives both patient and providers with what we feel are the three most important aspects of any patient/provider relationship:
- Access to healthcare
- Continuity of care
- Open, unfettered communication
This triad of principles helps providers progressively build upon the therapeutic relationship with patients. And when they are able to be practiced, patient health outcomes improve.
It wasn’t long ago when primary care physicians saw these three principles as a given to any patient relationship. But today, many primary care physicians feel tired, overworked and underappreciated, except by those that matter most–their patients. So can primary care physicians achieve the balance of a high-level of personal care and enjoy a high quality of life? In short, yes.
In 2007, I decided to leave a hospital employed primary care practice and give it one more try, wanting to improve the healthcare of patients and rediscover my passion for helping others; to practice in a manner that allowed me to do all those things Family Docs should be able to do. I also wanted to regain some work-life balance and professional autonomy. We started by focusing on what we felt the optimal interaction with the patient would look like, and built everything around this. The results have exceeded my expectations. I have found small practice life to be fun and rewarding, providing a fertile ground for innovation and ideas that can be implemented quickly.
There are many questions like:
- Is it complicated? (does not have to be)
- What about billing? (software has improved vastly)
- What about an EMR? (software has improved vastly)
- What do you mean, giving all your patients your cell number? (I am rarely called, and happy when I am)
- Do you miss that regular paycheck? (not in the least)
- Do you still spend time in the evening doing charts? (never)
Each circumstance is unique. The most efficient way to communicate is still email or the phone. Please be in touch. We are happy to share our experience, advice, successes and stumbles.
In the meantime, ask yourself a simple question: Is each interaction with a patient as ideal as it can be?
If not, we encourage you to do what we did and make a change. Follow your instincts. If a new system of patient interaction needs to be built, help your organization do it, or do it yourselves. After all, you are the Primary Care expert.
If there is one thing I would heartily endorse, it would be to spend some time with these folks. IMPs are a group of hundreds of physicians who question everything, and frequently find that the way things are done in large practice makes little sense to a physician or patient. This group has, literally, centuries of collective wisdom about the nuts and bolts of small practice life, from the very practical, to the highly philosophical. Monthly group “calls” and online access to other IMPs are invaluable. Nearly all are physicians who have grown weary of the treadmill and struck out on their own. In a small practice, there may be a tendency to feel you are “on your own.” This group has filled that void for me, providing a great group of innovative primary care thinkers with which to interact.
This site is another must for those looking to collect information that is actually clinically useful and actionable. In the past, our officewould ask patients to do patient satisfaction surveys. Our staff would groan, and we would receive the results months later, when they were of very limited use. We discussed using HowsYourHealth, but it went nowhere. As a small office, your patients can start using this with little fanfare, no expense, and no meetings! It has been an indispensable ‘tool’ for our practice.
The Rebirth of the Solo Family Doc
Once in a while, I am heartened to read a piece by a respected physician that echoes our feelings and supports our successes of swimming against the current tide of health care delivery. This time the recognition and encouragement come from Dr. Jeff Sussman, MD. Editor in Chief of the Journal of Family Practice. Thanks Jeff
I am always glad to share our perspectives with all who are interested in wanting to make a real change happen. Just drop me an email!