Picture this: A patient comes into Community Care Physicians, P.C., presenting symptoms of pneumonia. The physician puts the patient on antibiotics to break the fever and stop their cough. However, a week later that patient sees a rash on his back, and he’s not sure if it’s from the medicine he’s been taking or not. Instead of coming in and paying another copay of forty dollars, the patient uses telemedicine to have a virtual face-time consultation with his physician. He shows the doctor the rash, and the doctor tells the patient to take plenty of fluids and a Benadryl to help with the itch. The doctor tells the patient not to worry, and the patient clicks the screen off to continue with his day.
This scenario is just one way in which Dr. Shirish Parikh, MD, MBA, FACR, chairman, CEO, and founder of Community Care Physicians (CCP), is making patient care easier by creating a twenty-first-century model of medicine through technology. The company’s founding philosophy of “deploying technology” has been the impetus for artfully blending technology with traditional care. It was one of the first, in 2005, to embrace enterprise-wide electronic medical records in New York state. Today CCP’s use of technology has improved communication with patients through social media, a patient portal, concierge services, and—soon—telemedicine.
“It’s based on what the patients require,” Parikh says. “By establishing a tiered system, you can provide patients options for how to be seen. There are some who want to be seen by the provider, in-person, even if it’s a follow-up for a bout of pneumonia and they’re feeling fine. They’re so anxious, so they want to come in.” The second tier of people are those who might think that cost is a big issue, but they need to be seen and don’t want an in-person visit. That’s when CCP uses its communication channels so the patient can be seen without coming into the office and is reassured that everything is fine. The last tier deals with people who may not have the time or means, like transportation, to see the doctor. In these cases, the patient can use technologies like the patient portal to securely e-mail their CCP doctor to ask if they should be concerned about a persistent cough. “We’re just trying to utilize every avenue of communication with the patient so that they don’t feel like there’s any abandonment just because they can’t come in to see the provider,” Parikh says.
The newest implementation to this is the use of Facebook and other social media platforms to create more direct interaction with patients. In doing so, the company has been able to educate patients and communicate newer services available in the system.
“We know that social media is well known and well used, so it was a good avenue for us to immediately provide new information about new services, new doctors, and it provides a face to the company,” Parikh says. “We’re also actively trying to gauge the sentiment and feelings of our patients, so we found that social media is a good way to monitor what’s going on in the community.”
Though many of these implementations are still in their infancy stage, Parikh foresees more innovation in telemedicine and sees it as a way to monitor patients’ vitals at any time from anywhere. He believes that having devices attached to a patient’s mobile phone is the future in terms of tracking EKGs in older patients, gauging temperature, or checking their blood pressure.
The company also offers concierge services and free exercise programs for overweight adolescents. Concierge medicine gives patients another outlet to ask questions and help navigate the healthcare landscape, if needed. Free programs, such as the exercise course, are publicly communicated through the offices and patient portals, so patients know they can come in and exercise without any additional cost. These are value-based services that keep them healthy. “It’s very important for us not to treat people because they’re sick but to keep them healthy,” says Parikh.
CCP also improves care by implementing a once-a-month new-patient orientation, which tells patients what they can expect from the company. It’s also looking at utilizing telemedicine to better care for snowbirds who go to warmer states in the winter. Patients who go to Florida or Arizona can reach out to their primary-care providers at home, who know them and have access to their medical information.
However, incorporating technology in the healthcare space doesn’t come without its share of challenges. The biggest hurdle is working with regulations and oversight. Many insurance companies require prior authorizations for tests, so a patient who needs an MRI can’t get one until there’s enough documentation. Sometimes this can take up to twenty minutes and can be a fairly subjective process. Parikh hopes that better regulation and technology will work to improve the standard healthcare system.
“I’m very passionate about creating a system that is physician-patient centric, not hospital centric or insurance-product centric,” says Parikh. “It has always been a passion of mine over the years, and I want to continue [pursuing] that. I’m a clinician and an administrator. This helps me innovate because I’m in the trenches, so I understand the plight of the providers. I understand the plight of patients. Technology is a great solution to help us to continually enhance our product.”
Photo by Skip Dickstein