When should you refer to a podiatrist?
Medicine is a wonderful, varied profession covering the body from head to toe. From the internist who serves as gatekeeper and to the specialized surgeon, the body is well cared for from head to toe. Podiatry has become specialized over the past decades to include everything from sports medicine and ankle surgery to wound care. Often, the challenge in medicine for the practitioner is to know when to refer a patient to a specialist with more specialized training.
Podiatric foot and ankle physicians and surgeons provide comprehensive medical and surgical care for a wide spectrum of foot and ankle conditions including common to complex disorders and injuries that affect people of all ages. They are uniquely qualified to detect the early stages of diseases that exhibit warning signs in the lower extremities, such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease, and they manage foot and conditions which may compromise the quality of life – this include a vast array of medical conditions spanning various body systems such as integumentary, musculoskeletal, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular system etc.
The federal government is pursuing a patient-centered care delivery model, aimed at improving patient care quality, efficiency and savings. This is leading to a paradigm shift in traditional medical thinking. These changes will require the healthcare providers/industry to embrace a strategy of collaborative partnership and clinical integration with the intent to improve patient care.
How can podiatrists improve patient care quality, efficiency and savings? Let’s use diabetes as an example. Diabetes is a pandemic problem that results in an amputation every 20 seconds. The CDC says 1 in 10 adults currently have diabetes and rapidly rising; also diabetes costs $245 BILLION to the healthcare system (as of 2012). Every five minutes, a patient will lose a limb in the U.S. due to diabetes. Diabetic foot ulcerations (DFUs) are precursors to amputation. Since time is of the essence when it comes to tissue loss and healing, prompt intervention in patients with diabetic foot disorders may preserve limbs, restore function and keep patients out of hospitals. We are all aware of the commonly quoted statistic that “1% of the patient population accounts for 20% of all healthcare expenses” – hence timely and prompt podiatric consultation and intervention will result in improved quality, efficiency and savings. This care is integral in reducing hospital stays, keeping patients active and helping to bring overall healthcare costs down. Outcomes data shows DPMs provide high-volume, quality, safe, and cost-effective care, especially related to chronic conditions like diabetes. Since more of the U.S. population is expected to be diagnosed with diabetic mellitus, peripheral arterial disease and other high risk lower extremity ailments over the coming years, DPMs will continue to be a valued partner in delivering primary and specialty care to this growing chronic disease and other at-risk populations.
Patient centered health care requires healthcare providers to work as a team, communicate among all specialties, and know when and where to refer. Maintaining good relations with other physicians in different specialties will make for a smoother transition to accomplish a common goal. After all, the different specialties make up the sum of all parts for treating the human body from head to toe.