A recent Wall Street Journal article was entitled “The New Trend in Healthcare – Do it Yourself.” My immediate reaction was, “Is this what we’ve come to as community of healthcare professionals – encouraging a DIY approach to primary care?” But reading the article, which had an excellent balance of what patients should and should not be doing on their own, made me realize we’ve been leading up to this point for years. After all, isn’t the patient-centered medical home a partnership model between patient and physician where we’ve encouraged patients to take control of their health? Now, through remote medical monitoring devices, over the counter tests, and mobile apps we are much better positioned to do so. I think we have to look at this development as tremendous progress on the healthcare continuum and that care coordination may finally become reality.
Pivoting from DIY healthcare to its polar opposite, I want to say a few words about vaccine pop-up clinics. After hosting more than 200 clinics and administering more than 5,000 vaccines with first and second dose, booster shoots, or all three, my belief in the value of community-based care has never been stronger. The connections made, the health education information shared, and the trusted bond between a healthcare professional and community member are hallmarks of effective healthcare at the community level. Sometimes, going directly to where care is needed, as old school as that may be, is the best approach to care.
For all of its devastation, we can’t overlook the healthcare innovations spawned by our global public health crisis. In some situations, as with home testing options for COVID, COVID test vending machines, and the DIY options mentioned previously, innovation has had a swift and positive impact. The deployment of remote monitoring systems, while not a new concept, have also accelerated to the point where grants are available to implement such systems on a far-reaching basis – from in-utero to senior citizens – to track and measure success in health outcomes and behavior change.
One aspect of innovation during the pandemic, if innovations is indeed the correct word, is the proliferation of venture capital firms and other moneyed organizations swooping in to buy up primary care practices as if they were traditional business entities. Or launching new primary care endeavors – often aimed at seniors – and giving them names that are the equivalent of comfort food with accompanying ad campaigns evocative of Marcus Welby M.D. In reality, there is no community connection for the bulk of these organizations. I’m not above admitting to cold calling some of these operators to determine their sales pitch, ease of appointment setting and even familiarity with the area. (One of the organizations I called regarding a new patient open house was answering calls from Florida and understandably unable to advise on the best location for my needs, including culturally sensitive requests such as interpretation services.)
But beyond an opportunity for me to continue my rant against corporate primary care, why do I mention this? Because independent, self-employed primary care physicians focus on providing quality care and are not looking to address and fulfill corporate priorities and specific income goals.