By Tasaduq Hussain Mir, MD, FAAFP
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a paradigm shift in how we see patients. Many physicians have now switched to telemedicine. Prior to the pandemic, only about 11% of physician visits were done via telehealth and now almost 46% of visits are completed via telehealth, according to the American Medical Association.
Although telehealth visits have many benefits and are a preferred mode for a lot of patients to see their physician, they have their limitations, too. Many patients prefer telehealth because they do not have to spend hours in a doctor’s office, contend with heavy traffic, or struggle to find a parking spot to park their car. Having said that, many of the patients we schedule for telehealth visits are elderly, and problems like hearing loss, poor vision, and dementia are common in this age group.more
By Lisa Doggett, MD, MPH
I woke up dizzy on a Monday morning in November, 11 years ago. I didn’t think much of it, and I went to work, as usual, at my small community clinic in Central Austin. But as the week wore on and my symptoms persisted, without any explanation, I began to worry. When I started to have mild diplopia and taste changes, I needed to seek care. A neurologist examined me and told me I was probably okay, but my dizziness continued. A few days later, after noting subtle nystagmus during my otherwise normal exam, a savvy ENT doctor ordered the MRI, revealing my diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.
I was lucky. Most people with MS wait months or even years before they are properly diagnosed. My diagnosis took eight days because, as a physician, I understood something was wrong, I knew the ENT doctor who fit me into his busy schedule, and I had the support and resources to get help fast. I worry when I think of others who can’t access the care they need. But as family physicians, we can help.more
By Anticipate Joy
Anticipate Joy is an innovative mental health treatment and wellness company that supports healing and personal growth through a HIPAA-compliant online professional counseling platform. Anticipate Joy creates an introduction between the client and the therapist, along with the technology that enables the client to have therapy sessions with a licensed mental health provider within the convenience of your own home.
By Kissi Blackwell, MD
Recent events have shed light on the existing difficulties facing family physicians and have revealed the fragility of the current healthcare system. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has devastated our health care delivery process, and many family physicians are facing the difficult decision to close their doors or contend with salary reductions due to sharply decreased face-to-face visits. Now, more than ever, patients are valuing visits that can take place outside of the exam room, and, unfortunately, reimbursement has been severely lacking for virtual visits for traditional fee-for-service practices.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, there has been an inherent need to shift the way we approach primary care delivery and payment. In a time where we stand to lose thousands of primary care physicians to financial difficulties or retirement forced upon them by the current situation, we owe it to our profession to find a better way.more
By the LuCa National Training Network
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Texas — more than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined. The good news is that annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography, or LCS with LDCT, allows for lung cancer to be diagnosed at earlier stages than in the past. Most importantly, up to 80% of people with screen-detected lung cancer can be cured. Despite United States Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for LCS with LDCT in high-risk individuals and CMS coverage since 2015, Texas ranks below average for LCS among high risk individuals, with only 1.7% of those eligible receiving screening with LDCT, according to the American Lung Association.
Provider discussion and referral can have a tremendous impact on screening participation. “In one study, 82% of patients reported that they would undergo LDCT lung screening if recommended by their physician. Another study found that approximately 85% of LCS-adherent patients reported ‘trust in their provider’ as a reason for undergoing screening,” according to a 2019 study in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.more
The resilient nature of family physicians
By Javier “Jake” Margo Jr., MD
Greetings colleagues! Even though it is pretty much a cliché at this point, I just have to say: Wow, what a crazy year. As the summer has both flown by and simultaneously seemed to last an eternity, I have found myself thinking a lot about resilience. Even in the constant tumult of 2020, our members across the state and all over the country have adapted, learned new technologies, and implemented new processes to try to keep their clinics open for their patients.
Certainly for some, that proved impossible, and it may be months before we know the true damage done to our primary care infrastructure by COVID-19. Yet we know so many family physicians are finding ways to make it through and to continue to take care of their communities. We have circled the wagons and battened down the proverbial hatches. We are cautiously exploring what actions and activities are safe in our schools and our communities. We are moving forward with hope and optimism.more
By Sandra Scott
The implementation of electronic medical records and electronic health records ushered in a new era of digital communication between physician and patient. Although we can reflect upon the merits as well as the disadvantages of these systems, the fact remains that the most recent data from the CDC shows that almost 86% of office-based physicians use them. Given the adaptation of this technology, how can it best serve your practice goals, and should it be your only investment in marketing your practice?
Do more with your integrated systemmore
By Erica Swegler, MD
Hello friends and colleagues spread across the country, I bring you greetings from Austin, Texas. I'd like to begin by expressing my profound gratitude for the opportunity to serve these past three years on your board of directors. It has been a distinct pleasure to work alongside such a dedicated group of physicians, furthering our agenda of health care for all, fighting for more comprehensive payment for the care we provide, and prioritizing diversity and a more equitable health care system.
But I must admit, as I stand here looking into this lens, I really wish we were all together right now! Of all the things I love about the Academy, one of my favorites is being at these meetings surrounded by our colleagues, all those smiling faces, the handshakes and the hugs, engaging in civil discourse and disagreements, but leaving as friends. We will be together again, and when we are, it will be wonderful.more
By Jonathan Nelson
Texas’ fragmented health care system has long been plagued by ever-rising costs, inconsistent access to care, poor health outcomes, and a shrinking primary care workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed those critical weaknesses and laid bare the undeniable socioeconomic inequity endemic to our health care system.
In response to the ongoing pandemic, TAFP commissioned a report from FTI Consulting, an independent global business advisory firm, to study the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Texas’ health care system. The report, “The Primary Care Marshall Plan: A Five-Point Plan to Transform Health Care in Texas” lays out specific actions that policymakers should take to reimagine and transform how primary care is funded and delivered to improve the health and economic productivity of Texans, reduce overall health care spending, and prepare us for future public health emergencies.more
By Yetunde Sokunbi, MD
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin