Getting It Right the First Time

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Most primary care physicians agree that cases of foot pain are among the most problematic they see.  The problems tend to defy treatment and become nuisances.  Sometimes they require numerous return visits for nagging pain that won’t go away.

What’s more, patients with foot pain are decidedly unhappy campers.  For most everyone, walking is a non-negotiable necessity.  People are reminded of the foot pain with every step they take.  With every unsuccessful attempt at treatment, frustration rises and patient’s satisfaction with their medical care goes down.

The medical knowledge of family physicians and internists covers so much clinical ground that specific training on the foot and ankle is often neglected.  That’s how podiatric medicine was born in the first place–to fill a gap that arose early in the formal life of allopathic medicine.

Other providers for foot care, usually physician “extenders” such as nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, are trained only in the elementary basics of foot care, and can deliver only the most rudimentary palliative care safely.

Podiatric physicians, on the other hand, know the foot and ankle intimately.  They’ve spent four years in a podiatric medical college geared specifically toward specialization in the foot and ankle.  Hospital-based residency programs are the standard for podiatric postdoctoral training.

Some points to remember when considering whether to refer a foot case to a podiatric physician include:

Treatment by podiatric physicians is cost-effective.  Statistics from the Medical Group Management Association show that care from a doctor of podiatric medicine costs less to HMOs then foot care delivered by other specialists.

An independent national survey from MGMA of practitioner cost effectiveness shows that for every dollar an HMO receives for the work of a podiatrist, 34 cents goes toward his or her salary.  Nurse practitioners received 35 cents for every dollar the HMO receives for their work, and family physicians 38 cents, according to MGMA.

In short, referring to a DPM does not break the bank.  For the same cost, patients can be treated by a specialist with postdoctoral training.

Patient’s like being sent to a specialist.  Your patients will feel that they are getting the best care possible when they’re being sent to foot and ankle experts.  Sending them to a specialist tells them their health is your most important concern as their primary physician.

Podiatric physicians regularly get the job done in less time than other practitioners.  Their extensive experience in foot and ankle cases means that podiatric physicians are quite often able to provide the patient relief from pain on the first visit.

It saves you time.  In some cases, follow-up treatments are inevitable with foot problems.  Time management is crucial to the possibility of any practice, and yours is no exception.  Referring to a podiatrist allows you to see more patients in your area of strength as a physician, and at the same time keep all your patients happy and healthy.

Sending foot cases to podiatric physicians represents smart patient management by primary care physicians.  Podiatrists provide high-quality specialty care at about the same cost as a physician extender.  Patients are satisfied to get relief from foot pain, and doctors are satisfied that their patients have received the best care possible.

If you wish to further discuss how best to manage foot and ankle cases, contact Dr. Hoy.  He would be glad to talk about the foot care he provides.

Source: American Podiatric Medical Association

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