Policy: Health Care

Health officials call for teamwork in addressing doctor shortage

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Matt Connolly,Health Care

Faced with a shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors by 2020, some medical professionals are calling for better communication between providers.

"The answer is team-based care," said Reid Blackwelder, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Regardless of what the state laws are, we have to find ways to work well together so that there's always the next level of care and that it's always coordinated."

By having primary care physicians -- as well as providers in hospitals, pharmacies and clinics -- keep and share patient information, visits to the doctor will be much more efficient, according to Blackwelder.

"I understand that primary care is very hard to find in D.C.," he said. "Let's say you go to the pharmacy to get your flu shot -- that needs to be recorded somewhere. If you go somewhere for urgent care, that needs to be communicated to someone."

Keeping abreast of a patient's history goes hand-in-hand with standardizing medical practices so that care doesn't change if someone decides to change doctors or move to a new location.

"Today it's more of an art form than a science -- you could go to a hospital in the D.C. suburbs and have orthopedic surgery, and you could go to California and have it done differently," said health care lawyer Peter Pavarini. "We're going to need to work in more standardized ways." - Matt Connolly

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