Why the time is right for collaborative care

by John Mooney

A recent study conducted by Dove Press Patient Intelligence Journal asked this question of patients: “Have you ever asked your physician to prescribe something different than the original recommendation?” Thirty-four percent of the respondents indicated that in fact they had.  Perhaps even more interesting: of that 34 percent, 69 percent of the doctors agreed to prescribe the alternative drug when asked.  Why is this important?  The health care industry is creating a new paradigm where the patient is taking on more responsibility for their own health, from treatment options to prescription choices to overall wellness.

When I entered the health care education field, I launched a venture around educating the primary care physician – who at the time was the true gatekeeper to patient health.  Today there is not as clear a gatekeeper.  Today, patients go online to Google their symptoms, self diagnose and then tell their doctor what is wrong with them!

This new informed patient is one of many reasons why we need a new approach to health care delivery.  Health care needs to be more inclusive, integrated and collaborative. And collaboration in health care can mean many things: specialists working together with primary care physicians to prescribe the best medical treatment for patients; physicians teaching their patients about new medical procedures and techniques relevant to their disease state; diabetic patients networking over Facebook to learn how they can better manage their current condition and overall health and wellness. 

Whatever collaboration means, collaboration or “team care,” appears to be the direction the medical profession will need to head to address some of the growing complexities of today’s health care system.

Health care knowledge is global but health care delivery is local.  With that in mind, I believe we need to create programs that promote and foster the concept of coordinated care on a regional basis.  New health care legislation is going to create even more demand on an already-taxed health care system.  All health care professionals will need to be better equipped and more efficient in how they practice and deliver medicine.  The health care system will have to work differently today than it has in the past.

A more integrated and coordinated approach to patient care will bring us one step closer to meeting the demands of the changing health care environment.  The lines of communication between specialists and primary care physicians need to be enhanced and patients need to be included in the conversation.  Education programs need to be centered on team care.  Specialists and primary care physicians need to work better together and patients need to have access to credible medical education that will enable them to make more informed decisions.

There are many people focused on how we can make health care better in the next year, five years and even ten years, but I think everyone in the health care industry agrees that the sooner we can improve patient outcomes the better.   We need to be asking what we can do today that will improve patient outcomes tomorrow. A more collaborative, team based approach to patient care is a step in the right direction.

John Mooney is co-founder of collaborativeCARE Conference.

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