BUFFALO, NY - The concern over proper care for opioid addiction, as well as mental health cases, has lead to a new method of treatment for family doctors who may feel overwhelmed trying to help those patients. The new service aims to make sure there is proper follow-up with specialists for people who need help.
Primary care physicians may represent the front line for patient care with chronic medical issues like diabetes or other ailments. But it's estimated about a third of their patients may be suffering from something much more complex and difficult to treat - mental health or substance abuse.
So the Amherst-based TCD Medical firm is now offering family doctors sort of a bridge in care to make sure those patients are linked properly with specialists. Dr. Vernice Bates explains the concept this way: "If they identify a problem that maybe their practice isn't adept at dealing with then we're someone who can act as a triage unit - we aren't necessarily the treating entity - but to see what's the most appropriate treatment for that person in the community."
Because of limited access issues, it may take three to six months to get an appointment with such specialists. But that can have tragic consequences, so a behavioral healthcare manager steps in for the patients. TCD Nursing Director Katie Budzinski says, "We follow up monthly but we also have a number that they can call and talk to us. So every month we're updating the primary care and we kind of link all of that together. Not only for safety reasons but also just to have the support for these patients it's crucial."
From a primary care doctor's perspective it's needed even more so - especially with substance abuse concerns.
Dr. David Pawlowski with Highgate Medical Groupsays, "The chronic opioid users for chronic pain, the chronic anxiety medications for these folks...there's no safe approach without the right behavioral health team to manage these medications and medical issues.They call us we call them. Frequent touchpoints. We think the more we can contact patients the better health outcomes."
TCD medicine says this bridge or triage system for these patients is covered by Medicare and health insurance plans. They hope more primary care doctors will sign on.