A Community of Healthcare
The landscape of healthcare has been shifting in recent years as people are taking more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and as a result, have been seeking out different options for their healthcare needs. Gone are the days where you see one doctor who meets all your needs. Now, there are family doctors, specialists, nurse practitioners, naturopathic doctors, midwives, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors, and that is by no means a complete list. People are seeking out these allied health care providers because they all have different roles, and excel at different things.
Another trend that I have been noticing is the zeal with which people will access health care for their children. We may not take so much care and attention in accessing comprehensive health care for ourselves, but our kids get the best. The best food, the best supplements, and the best health care. This means that as we have kids, availability of options and increased motivation both result in our seeking out alternative providers to address our family’s healthcare needs more than ever.
The challenge with finding a community of health care providers is that it can potentially lead to cracks in your or your family’s care. We all try to do our best to cover our bases when it comes to history taking, performing physical examinations as needed, ordering lab testing, etc., but it is much more challenging (and potentially dangerous) when we don’t have all of the information we need.
Navigating these waters can be both time consuming and difficult, but once you lay the groundwork, hopefully your team will work in cooperation to give you the care that is best for you. I would start with having a good family doctor that knows you, your family, and your history well and appreciates that you will complement their care with other providers. Maybe you have decided that you would rather see an ND as your family doctor, and have them do your family’s physicals, or be the first line if you have a concern. That is great, but I still believe that you need to have a family doctor as an integral part of your team. Maybe you are pregnant and you have found a midwife to manage your pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period. Again, I would still recommend that you have a family doctor on board to address concerns that are not related to pregnancy, or to see your baby should there be concerns once you are out of your midwife’s care.
The reason that I believe so strongly that a family doctor should be included in your community of health care is that eventually, regardless of how healthy you are or how effective your other providers are, you will need your family doctor for something, and they will do their job a lot better if they know you and your history.
The next step to establishing your community of care would be to organize a folder for every member of your family, and include in it each individual’s pertinent health history, medications, treatments plans, lab results etc. from each provider you see. When you see a new provider, bring this folder with you so they have all the information and can add to it as needed.
You also need to ensure that all of your providers are open to collaborating with one another because if they are not, it may lead to conflicting treatment plans and thus have a negative impact on your care and leave you unsure of who to trust. Each provider has their role, but should respect and acknowledge the others as having valuable skills to provide. This open and collaborative relationship is vital to your wellbeing as their patients/clients and it goes beyond their openness, extending your willingness to be open and honest with them as well. More than once I’ve had a client seeing both me and either a family doctor or an obstetrician for their pregnancy care, which is neither recommended nor allowed by our insurers (except in rare circumstances which may dictate a shared care model or a late transfer of care where the initial provider stays involved). When this occurs, neither care provider is able to provide adequate care, which can directly impact the outcome of the pregnancy and the wellbeing of both mom and baby, as well as creating a strain on the relationship that exists between providers.
Ultimately, all of us who are in the health profession care about our patients’ being well. We all have the same end goal, and none of us are capable of providing all the care any one person needs. Most people will utilize a group of people to provide care to their family, but creating a “community” of providers that is respectful, open, and consistent will result in those providers being able to provide the best care possible.