Guest columnist Dr. Meghan Gump: Dear Patients — We hear you!

PIXABAY

PIXABAY PIXABAY

By DR. MEGHAN GUMP

Published: 05-10-2024 9:21 PM

 

As a family practitioner and the medical director of Valley Medical Group, I care deeply about my patients and our community. During my 20 years of practicing full-spectrum primary care in Franklin County, I have come to value the relationships I have built with patients and their families.

But I know for many people, this kind of medical care is not as easy to find and keep as it once was. Every day I hear patients voice the challenges of getting care, seeing someone who knows them and their unique needs, and being able to afford the care they receive.

While I am not writing to offer excuses, I feel it is important to share some of struggles we are dealing with in primary care. Over the last decade, patient needs have increased, both physically and mentally. As a community, we have grown older. Our health care system has become more complicated, adding barriers that prevent patients from getting needed medications, tests, or specialist care.

The expense of health care has been shifted to patients who are often struggling to make ends meet. Practitioners spend many hours each day completing paperwork and documenting care so that patients can get medications and tests and we can be paid for our work, time not spent in the exam room building connection.

Despite active efforts to hire and maintain providers and staff, in the last four years, Valley Medical has had a net loss of 13 practitioners and struggles to fill open staff positions. Attracting and retaining practitioners to join us is becoming more and more difficult because primary care is undervalued in our health care system and new practitioners seek employment with higher compensation that will make paying off loans easier. Technology like electronic health records and portals have disrupted care as often as they have added to it.

I love practicing medicine. I love the relationships that I have with patients. I feel that primary care is the foundation for peoples’ mental and physical health. Twenty years into my career, “the calling” of practicing medicine still brings me joy; yet I also leave work with a heavy heart knowing we are not doing all we can to meet our patients’ needs.

Nevertheless, I believe we can still provide great care, we just need to be adaptable and creative.

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Although I don’t think medicine is going to look like it did 50 years ago, I am striving to work with my partners to deliver you care that keeps you healthy and still provides the relational connection many of us want with our primary care practitioners. What does this mean for you, the patient? Things may look and feel a little different, but we still have the same goal: to help you live better, longer.

As your partner in health care, we ask that we grant each other grace as we navigate change. We will be trying new things, and we hope you will try them with us. Help us rekindle the satisfaction created from sharing in all the pleasures and sorrows born of a human lifespan.

We will seek your feedback on changes and continue to work to adapt when we miss the mark. When we do things, we’ll share it with patients in person or on social media or by mail. Write to your representatives asking them to protect and value primary care. Check out and consider supporting the movement at pc4you.org.

I hear your pleas for continuity and ongoing quality health care. I look forward to continuing to provide this for you and your families. Thank you for being a part of our community.

Dr. Meghan Gump is a family practitioner and medical director at Valley Medical Group.