The idea of combining more doctors into one larger group might seem, at first, like one designed to move as many patients through practice as possible. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend in healthcare delivery that places more emphasis on the quality of patient care rather than the quantity of care provided. By forming networks that include a variety of primary care and specialty physicians with shared resources and relationships, existing patients experience better care with better outcomes.
This collaborative care model is the basis of the recent partnership between General Physician PC and OB•GYN Associates of Western New York, who joined forces earlier this year to expand the variety of care resources available to patients of both groups. The partnership created what is now the most comprehensive women’s health service practice in the region.
Here are five of the most important ways women’s healthcare improves when more doctors work together.
1. Expanded access to experts
Many women only see an OB-GYN regularly and don’t have a primary care physician to address all of the other physical and mental aspects of health. But when obstetrics, gynecology, primary care and specialists in oncology, urology, surgery, and more are all part of the same team, the expanded continuum of care can address a larger variety of health concerns, quickly.
For example, the prevalence of heart disease in Western New York women—and the way in which the diseases affects women differently than men—makes it even more important to have cardiologists to support more OB-GYN physicians whose patients have heart disease, with direct access to the specialized resources at Gates Vascular Institute. The doctors at OB•GYN Associates of Western New York now have stronger ties to Oishei Children’s hospital, which specializes in neo-natal care and high-risk pregnancies.
2. Improved communication
When physicians are all part of the same group, they share a common infrastructure that can streamline day-to-day operations in ways that save a lot of time and frustration. Everyone is using the same electronic health record and communication platform, so there’s immediate access to medical and diagnostic testing information. Doctors can make better-informed decisions when they’re able to see what medications a patient is currently taking, notes from other specialists that might impact treatment plans, and whether or not a test has already been ordered by another physician. All of this avoids repeat visits and delays in care that sometimes happen as records are ferried back and forth between unrelated offices.
That shared communication platform also makes it a lot easier for patients to schedule appointments. Rather than handing a patient a business card or general referral for a specialist, OB-GYNs and primary care physicians can place a call to a colleague who can help, often before the patient leaves the office.
3. Reduced costs
Better communication within the same network of doctors also reduces medical costs for patients. There’s no need for services like imaging and labs to be repeated, meaning fewer fees and co-pays. This is especially important for patients with high-deductible health insurances plan who pay out of pocket for each test and office visit up to a certain amount (usually in the thousands of dollars).
There’s also an economy of scale that helps both General Physician, PC and OB•GYN Associates of Western New York keep costs lower for patients and their insurance companies, a consideration that’s especially important as the price of healthcare continues to rise.
Women tend to put the health of children, spouses, and parents ahead of their own—often to the detriment of their health. Partnerships like the one between General Physician, PC and OB•GYN Associates of WNY are designed to organize and deliver care in a way that allows women to be active participants in their own care. A big part of that is providing patients with choices about how to interact with their care team, such as offering early morning, evening, and Saturday office hours; electronic scheduling and pre-registration for appointments; and the option to use video for telehealth visits instead of coming in.
Together, this partnership serves a larger geographic area of Western New York rather than centering care around just the southtowns, the city, or the northtowns as many smaller practice groups do. By having locations in all of these areas, it means there’s more likely to be an office close to home or work rather than going out of the way to receive essential care. This is especially critical for women who need to be seen regularly throughout the course of a pregnancy or cancer treatment.
5. Better outcomes
When doctors can easily work together, their patients experience better health. If an OB-GYN detects an area of concern during a breast exam, for example, they’re already connected with the diagnostic imaging resources, and, if need be, oncologists who can take the next steps without missing a beat. Time is critical in so many health issues, where earlier detection and treatment can mean the difference between life and death.
It also means many issues can be addressed before they become emergencies. Recently, a maternal-fetal medicine specialists embedded in an OB•GYN Associates practice discovered a pregnancy where the baby had an issue with the brain. The partnership with General Physician, PC allowed them to make a phone call, have the mom meet the pediatric specialist that they’ll need to work with once the baby is born, and be able to do all that ahead of time rather than scramble on the day of delivery. It allows the patient to understand what’s going on, the prognosis, and what will need to happen in the days following the baby’s birth. Not only did that partnership and plan help alleviate mom’s fears during a really scary time, it also gave her baby the best possible chance at thriving.