A different model of care at Fallon Clinic
By Caroline Keras Leominster Champion
August 19, 2011 — Primary care accounts for half of the medical treatment administered in the United States, though only around two percent of the students graduating from medical move into the primary care field.
Attempting to give every patient the adequate attention that they need during an appointment, trying to fill out all of the paperwork involved with each check up, and working to help patients stay healthy in between visits becomes more of a balancing act with each passing year.
After universal healthcare was enacted in 2006, the job of a primary care physician in the Commonwealth became even more of a challenge.
“We just got completely swamped,” said Dr. Daniel Veno, a doctor at Fallon Clinic in Leominster.
Because of the increasing difficulty in keeping up with the work involved with dispensing primary care, the doctors at Fallon Clinic have begun to rework the model most offices have followed in the past by implementing a unique program called Patient Centered Medical Home within the past two years.
One of the first changes was to begin working in a team-based model. This allows the physicians to bounce ideas for proper care amongst each other, as well as perform other necessary tasks more efficiently because of support they have. This increased effectiveness eliminates such common annoyances such as filling out unnecessary paperwork, or waiting for the doctor a long time after an appointment was scheduled to begin.
“Waiting time is disrespectful and inefficient,” said Dr. Michael Kelleher, another a physician at the Fallon Clinic.
While striving to maintain courtesy is admirable, that is not the only effort the Clinic is making to improve the quality of their service. Another main objective of the doctors at Fallon is to keep their patients healthy through various prevention methods. Primary prevention techniques, such as screening for cancer, and heart diseases, allow the doctor and patient to take measures that could slow down or stop illnesses that are looming due to lifestyle or genetic history. Secondary prevention techniques, such as monitoring glucose levels, allow for the doctor and patient to slow down or eliminate symptoms from a disease or illness that has already been diagnosed.
Doctors at Fallon have also come up with a few creative ways to encourage patients to visit their office for check-ups and screenings, or call with questions about concerning issues. Patients receive phone calls when the Clinics computer system indicates that the person is due for an appointment or test.
Patients between the ages of 50 and 75 receive birthday cards that include a reminder of the tests or immunizations that they are due for soon.
They have also begun 90-minute group visits, at which a number of people can consult with a doctor at once. Despite the fact that people may come into one appointment with different issues, Veno said that a patient with heart disease who mentions their father with diabetes may help a diabetes patient in the appointment who is too shy to talk about their concerns.
The length of the group visit is also beneficial for optimizing the amount of information discussed with the doctor.
“It allows for face time with the physician,” said Veno.
MyChart lets patients access the basic medical records, request refills, make appointments, and obtain other basic information at any hour of the day.
At the conclusion of an appointment, patients receive a report card that gives a clear view on how up to date the individual is on various treatments and other important preventative measures. After the print out is read, they are able to talk with a doctor about a method for maintaining the best grades possible.
“It helps to engage the patient in planning their own care,” said Kelleher. “They also have the opportunity to input their own goals that they will work out with the physicians.”
Those who have a quick problem will soon be able to go onto the Clinic’s secure Web site and have an E-visit. Patients can fill out a questionnaire about their symptoms and obtain a prescription or are referred to make an appointment based on their answers.
However a patient is lured into an office visit, Veno said that the Patient Centered Medical Home system has reminded many of the physicians at Fallon why they choose the medical field by taking some of the pressure off of the doctors. “It’s brought back the joy of medicine,” he said.