PAT COLANDER

BABY STEPS: MOVING INTO THE SPECIALTY ERA

2013-12-21T00:00:00Z BABY STEPS: MOVING INTO THE SPECIALTY ERA nwitimes.com
December 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A few years ago, a very well-respected Northwest Indiana CEO-physician predicted with certainty that in the future, for routine medical check-ups, monitoring medication, screening tests and other wellness care, most people would not be visiting doctors. The great majority of patients would be seeing healthcare professionals specializing in a particular service or treatment. In theory, not too far into the future, a typical healthy person could go for years without ever seeing a doctor.

This was not very surprising to most people in the room including me. I had already had plenty of experience with highly trained nurse practitioners, mammography technologists, physicians’ assistants, midwives, physical therapists, audiologists and personal trainers.

The first time I had a routine annual exam by a physician’s assistant happened by accident---my regular obstetrician was at the hospital delivering a baby. This had probably happened a half dozen times over the years I had been a patient of that group. And, though I had usually re-scheduled the appointment hoping for better luck, this time I was offered the opportunity to have an assistant do the exam. I was delighted.

The next time was an emergency on my side of the scheduling matrix. I had the option to see an assistant physician immediately even though my regular doctor was unavailable. I began a course of treatment for the problem that was holding up a surgery and within a few days and the surgery was scheduled.

The world of routine health and wellness maintenance started evolving a long time ago by adapting new models to fit patient’s needs. While we were out leading healthy lives and having busy careers, training of health care professionals had split into thousands of sub-specialties. Hospitals were replaced by health systems and in-patient treatment, with a few rare exceptions, became out-patient treatment. Nurses are now routinely complete continuing education units or get specialized training, but their career options have never been better.

A couple of months ago, another Northwest Indiana CEO said that health care consumers would soon be scrolling through prices for medical procedures and treatments similar to the way we search in real time for airfares and hotel rooms. Though that seems hard to imagine, anyone who has ever looked at an explanation of benefits would welcome a quick search tool to use before the doctor visit or procedure, wouldn't they?

This issue of Get Healthy, as usual, contains a handful of miracles large and small, but don’t forget the rapid transition into the new world of wellness where even the patients can have something to say about decisions about the care we get.

Pat Colander

Associate Publisher and Editor

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