(Featured in a supplement by MediaPlanet) By Edmond Cleeman, M.D.
Question: How will patients get the best care when they need the help of several specialists?
Answer: By creating communities where healthcare professionals from different concentrations can collaborate.
On the surface, repairing an injury like a torn rotator tendon seems straightforward: the patient has arthroscopic surgery and soon is back to playing tennis. But in truth, the journey from diagnosis to recovery may involve more disciplines than just your primary physician.
Let’s call this patient John. Initially, he will see his primary doctor for diagnosis and surgical repair. After recovering from surgery, John will require the expertise of a physical therapist for several months to regain use of the shoulder and reduce any pain. The transition from physician to physical therapist is critical to the success of treatment, but once therapy is complete,
John may require the ongoing care provided by Pilates instructors massage therapists, athletic trainers, and acupuncturists. But how will he know what’s best?
Historically, there has been limited communication or coordination of care amongst these groups; healthcare professionals have existed in separate silos, each specialty with its own experiences, culture and scientific literature. Patients require the skill and care of multiple disciplines to get well, but in addition, those professionals need to agree on one course of treatment. Success requires a continuity of care and collaboration, and that requires communication. Physicians and therapists need to be on the same page. A physical therapist needs to understand the principles of fixing a rotator tendon and how these may impact what they can do with the patient in their clinic. Likewise, the surgeon needs to understand what the therapist is able to do and how it may benefit their patient, as well as which therapy treatments should be implemented for each specific case.
Caring for a patient is a team effort. Through the creation of cross discipline communities, healthcare professionals from several specialties learn from each other and collaborate on research, education and treatments. By encouraging PTs to spend time in MD offices and operating rooms, and encouraging MDs to learn more about alternate treatments, professionals will understand, and begin to develop, the best possible treatment for every patient.