Bigger is better: 5 ways physician group partnerships improve women’s healthcare
- Written by Devon Dams-O’Connor
The idea of combining more doctors into one larger group might seem, at first, like one designed to move as many patients through a 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 patient 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.
General Physician, PC and Oishei Children’s Hospital Partnership Helps Women with High-Risk Pregnancies
- Written by Donna Manquen
General Physician, PC is pleased to announce a new partnership with Oishei Children’s Hospital that will offer wider access to patient services for high-risk pregnant women and their babies. Our second location of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center opened January 19, 2021, at 1020 Youngs Road in Williamsville.
Led by Dr. Paul Ogburn, the head of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Oishei Children’s Hospital and a professor at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine, the Center will treat high-risk patients during their pregnancies, providing a level of specialized care that is rare both locally and across the nation. Maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialists, also called perinatologists, are board-certified obstetricians who have been specifically trained in diagnosing, treating, and managing high-risk pregnancies, providing specialty care for underlying medical concerns or past outcomes that could complicate pregnancy, from pre-conception through delivery. As specialists within the field of obstetrics, they conduct prenatal tests, provide treatments, and perform surgeries. They can act as a consultant during lower-risk pregnancies and as the primary obstetrician in especially high-risk pregnancies. After birth, they may work closely with pediatricians or neonatologists.
“The Northtowns Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center will increase the availability and convenience of expert care for women with complications or problems in their pregnancies,” says Dr. Ogburn. “This source of timely and quality perinatal care is an extension of the Regional Perinatal Center System of Western New York and maintains close coordination with the other members of this system, including Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, and all the hospitals and providers of obstetric care in western New York.”
Like the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center located at Oishei Children’s Hospital on the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus, the Northtowns location will be devoted to women expecting high-risk concerns associated with their pregnancies. This will include providing prenatal care for the mother and managing any existing health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure; supporting women who develop complications during pregnancy or childbirth; and consulting with Western New York’s OB-GYN physicians, co-managing additional necessary treatment with the high-risk patient’s primary obstetrician, who will manage the pregnancy and delivery.
Both Maternal-Fetal Medicine Centers use state-of-the-art equipment to help the team provide quality care to their patients. “We know that having a high-risk pregnancy, or delivering a baby that may need specialized care, can turn what should be a joyous time into one that is stress-filled,” says Allegra Jaros, president of Oishei Children’s Hospital. “But it is our hope that this collaboration and the new Northtowns Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center will alleviate that stress for patients and families throughout Western New York by bringing together the area’s leading specialists and latest technology to serve those in our community who are in need of these critical services. Oishei Children’s Hospital is proud to partner with General Physician, PC to be regional leaders in women’s and children’s services.”
Winter Risks - Protect Your Body Inside and Out
- Written by Joseph Falcone, MD, DO
Living in Western New York, you can’t avoid cold, snow, and ice during the winter, but you can prevent serious winter-related injuries. In an earlier blog post, Dr. Riegel discussed heart attack risks. This week, Dr. Falcone, an orthopedic surgeon, offers tips for protecting your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.Thousands of people every year suffer from preventable injuries during the winter months. To protect yourself, observe some basic safety tips to prevent yourself from being one of them.
Protect Your Body, Inside and Out
Cold temperatures make muscles, tendons, and ligaments more prone to injury, so you’ll want to mitigate the risks of spending time outside by:
- Keeping your body warm. Wear appropriate outerwear and layer your clothing to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. Your layers should be light, loose, water-resistant, and wind-resistant.
- Stretching. Warm up your muscles before shoveling, putting up or taking down holiday lights, or performing other outdoor home-care tasks.
- Staying Drink enough water! It’s natural to worry about dehydration in the heat of summer, but in winter, don’t forget our bodies are often working harder to move under extra or heavier clothing, breathing harder from exertion, and sweating when we’re inside over-heated buildings. If your body becomes dehydrated, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, which can cause cramps and bodily strain—greatly increasing the chance of falling and other injuries. Proper hydration helps keep your muscles and ligaments healthy, and it even helps with pain relief and healing.
- Wiping your shoes thoroughly when you enter a building. Snow and ice build up in the soles and can cause you to slip when you step onto a smooth, hard floor.
Beware of the Biggest Problem
Falling or slipping on icy outdoor surfaces, of course, is the biggest issue we face in the winter months. Both can cause broken bones, wrenched backs, sprained joints, or head injuries. We all take walking for granted, but if you try to walk in the winter like you do in the summer, you’re putting yourself at risk.Two things are essential to injury prevention: wearing boots or shoes designed for maximum safety on ice and snow and changing the way you walk. Slip-resistant footwear is key. So is taking shorter steps with slightly bent knees and taking things slow—try not to rush or run. If you have the choice between walking on potentially icy pavement or snowy grass, choose the grass. That way, if you fall, you’re less likely to be hurt. And, when you’re out and about, use handrails whenever possible, treat every walkway as though it has black ice, and keep your hands out of your pockets – you may need your arms for balance or to catch yourself. In fact, if you have to navigate black ice, walk like a penguin: widen your stance, spread your arms, and do your best to balance.
And if you do fall? Bend your elbows and knees to help your arms and legs absorb the impact, and be mindful of how you get up.
Prepare to Drive Differently
Winter driving can be harmful to your body, including preparations. Scraping ice and snow off your car—be sure to clear both windshields!—can bring about damage to joints, tissue, and muscles. Shoveling, with all the lifting, twisting, and throwing it requires, can cause muscle strains, sprains, and soft tissue injuries. Try pushing the snow away instead of lifting it onto your shovel. If you lift it, protect your back by keeping a slight bend in your knees. And listen to your body: if something is starting to hurt, take a break. Finally, pay attention to severe weather warnings. If you don’t have to be out on the roads when conditions are snowy or icy, don’t go anywhere. But if you do, take proper precautions to avoid abrupt stops, skids, and collisions—which can cause concussions, whiplash, back injuries and broken bones.
One final note: if you have any pre-existing orthopedic conditions, including and especially joint implants or any kind of surgical reconstruction, be sure you talk to your physician about any extra precautions you might have to take in the winter weather. We want everyone to enjoy the great outdoors this winter – safely!