August 30, 2012
Family physician Jim Dearing, DO, and patient Maria Malice, who appreciates patient-centered care.
Marcus Welby has moved into the 21st century.
Although the friendly fictional family doctor's delivery of personalized health care has long been rumored to be lost in the mists of history, American health care reform just may be bringing him back. Only better.
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This article appears in the September - October 2012 edition of HealthBeat, John C. Lincoln's free health newsletter.
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"When it comes to health care, we've built more than a better mousetrap. We've built the best mousetrap in Arizona," said Jim Dearing, DO, chief medical officer for John C. Lincoln's Physician Network of primary and specialty care practices. "We have created a continuous healing relationship with our patients."
America's new health care reform legislation refers to clinically integrated care and other jargon, but what it's all about is creating a team that includes patients, their families, their primary care physicians and other medical care providers who all communicate with each other and work together so the patient's health is as good as it can be.
The concept, Dr. Dearing explained, is to create a place where a medical team led by a primary care physician knows the patients, their families, their values, their medical histories and their medical needs. Bolstered by a single electronic medical record encompassing all of each patient's history, diagnoses and care, the medical team can literally meet the patient's needs before they are asked.
"You can't put a price on that kind of knowledge," said Maria Malice, who's been Dr. Dearing's patient for 20 years. "When you have a doctor who's in tune with you, you don't worry because you know the doctor cares about you and knows what you need."
The whole point of patient-centered care, Dr. Dearing said, is to equip patients to take control of their health issues.
"We have to listen and hear what patients are saying so that we can give them the tools to understand their condition," Dr. Dearing said.
"All patients should become experts in their own care, know all about every disease or health problem they may have," he said. "As a doctor, I can't be with every patient every minute of the day to supervise what they do to protect their health. My job is to provide the information to empower my patients to be successful in managing their own health," he said.
"It's almost always a good idea to have two people in the room when the doctor is visiting with the patient," Dr. Dearing said. "That increases the chances that they will hear and absorb the information that the doctor provides."
The electronic health records system helps protect patients' health and it saves time for everyone involved.
"For example," Malice said, "consider the extra 10 minutes of paperwork that's often required when you go for a doctor visit. With electronic health records, it's gone. You don't need to go through your medical history for a new person, repeat what you've already told them — it's in the computer.
"Another benefit," she said, "is that I don't have to run back and forth to the pharmacy to drop off prescriptions and pick them up. They get sent in electronically, which assures accuracy and saves me time and gasoline. And, by the way, if there's a chance I'll have a bad reaction to a new prescription because I'm allergic or because of something else I'm already taking, the computer will flag that, too."
Dr. Dearing explained that electronic health records let caregivers know when an individual patient needs follow-up testing or other medical care.
"We know, for example," he said, "if a new diabetes drug comes on to the market, in a matter of minutes we can notify all of our patients who might need it."
But the best part of coordinated care, Malice said, is peace of mind. "When I have a doctor I trust, someone who knows me and cares about me, I don't worry if he sends me to a specialist. I may not know the new specialist, but I know if my doctor sent me there, I'm going to get good care."
Learn more about primary physicians who offer patient centered care for you at JCL.com/practices.
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