By Brad Meyer
…and why having a family doctor is more important than ever
If navigating the modern healthcare system is confusing, you’re not alone. The rules, options and expenses associated with achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle have multiplied in recent years.
Once upon a time, people visited their family doctor for pretty much all of their medical needs. But now, exploding increases in insurance costs have put a strain on the family budget and most doctors have joined large medical groups or taken jobs at larger hospitals to avoid the expense of operating as a solo family doctor.
“I was proud to be part of the Sadler Clinic back in the day,” said family practitioner Dr. Kyle Scarborough. “But as medicine has changed in recent years, I decided being an independent family doctor was best for me and my patients.”
Indeed, many physicians have turned to larger group or hospital affiliation because of the time, expense and “paperwork” required by new rules and regulations in the healthcare industry. Doctors are now required to participate in an electronic record keeping system that makes records more accessible to outside review. Many insurance companies place greater importance on long term managed care and the results of physician treatment – which Dr. Scarborough says is a good thing.
“Insurance companies are also taking a far more aggressive approach in their approach to managing healthcare,” said Dr. Scarborough. “Their goal is to maximize efficiency and profit.”
This includes direct, proactive interaction with patients: notifying their clients when they should get their flu shot or when they are due for a colonoscopy, for example.
“Some people don’t like the intrusion of a third party coming between their family members and their doctor,” said Dr. Scarborough. “It can seem like insurance companies are starting to micro manage healthcare.”
And while larger clinics and hospitals with multiple doctors can offer some benefits, there are potential downsides as well. Quite often, such organized healthcare groups have company regulations about how medical referrals are handled – usually exclusivity within the group.
“As an independent family doctor, I have the ability to refer patients to the best specialists in the area,” he said. “There are no incentives to make questionable referrals or limit my choices to a handful of ‘partners’ in the medical practice.”
The same can be true of prescription drugs. The big pharmaceutical companies are spending big money promoting new drugs, encouraging physicians to prescribe their products. Nowadays, drug costs, even for generic equivalents, are very expensive.
“As an independent, I am not bound by politics or corporate policy to prescribe a specific drug,” said Dr. Scarborough. “I can evaluate the situation, determine what medicine is best and recommend a generic drug when available.”
Another recent development is the proliferation of “urgent care” facilities popping up in many communities. Such facilities can be helpful for a single issue problem occurring without notice, but do not provide comprehensive or continuity of care for the patient.
“Fragmented healthcare, where you see different providers, takes away the benefit of past medical history or trends. You’re better off in the long run finding a family physician with whom you can have a long term relationship,” he said.
Family physicians have the ability to observe and direct medical care over an extended period – able to discuss issues of medical concern and identify symptoms or trends that need to be addressed.
“We spend a fair amount of time talking with our patients, encouraging them to discuss issues or concerns they have about their health or their lifestyle,” said Dr. Scarborough. “Modern healthcare is a business, but it doesn’t have to be impersonal.”
As a respected physician in the community, Dr. Scarborough’s practice continues to expand.
“We’ve expanded our service hours to help families on a busy schedule,” said Dr. Scarborough. “We can usually offer patients same-day or next-day appointments when they have a concern.”
At Family Life Medical, it’s all about commitment ? to patients and the community.
“We’re adding well trained and well qualified healthcare professionals to the team to better serve our patients,” said Dr. Scarborough. “We’re proud of what we have accomplished, but we are focused on the future and want to provide the best medical care possible.”
Family Life Medical, located at 508 Medical Center Blvd. in the Conroe Regional Medical Center campus, is accepting new patients as well as most forms of insurance. For information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.familylifemedical.com or call 936-760-9900.