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Affordable Care Act should inspire health care industry to adapt

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In response to the editorial, “Try bipartisan approach to health worker deficit,” we applaud Gov. Susana Martinez and the Legislative Finance Committee’s proposals to help address the shortage of doctors and nurses that New Mexicans in rural areas feel the most.

As practicing physicians, we have cared for thousands of New Mexicans and we know how important it is that patients have access to quality health care in their own community. As your editorial stated, health care is in a period of major change.

Our challenges include ensuring that we have enough care providers to serve our communities and developing new ways for patients to receive care that is appropriate and convenient.

Hopefully the Affordable Care Act succeeds and we do dramatically reduce the uninsured population in New Mexico and across the country. At the same time, this influx of new patients leads to valid concerns about how they will access care.

These concerns should inspire more than hand-wringing; they should inspire action to redesign and improve how we deliver care.

Similar to on-line retailers who have revolutionized the way we purchase and read books, the health care industry must now rethink our traditional approach to patient visits. In many cases, providing the highest-quality care to patients means moving beyond the traditional 15-minute visit with a physician.

Our approach embraces a patient-centered medical home model where each member of the care team practices at the top of their license.

In this model, patient needs are coordinated by a team of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, behavioral health specialists, pharmacist clinicians and other clinical specialists. Studies show that this approach can help to dramatically reduce the projected shortage of primary care physicians. Most importantly, it can improve care.

In addition, this new model seeks to reach patients in the ways that work best for them, whether through a group visit to discuss diabetes, or utilizing technology like electronic health records so that patients can message their doctors, schedule appointments or check their child’s immunization records online.

In addition to traditional doctor-patient visits, we are expanding the reach of our providers into underserved areas through innovations in telemedicine.

There is no doubt that the health care landscape is changing. This is the right time for innovations that will allow us to make the best use of our valuable and sometimes limited resources, perhaps even in ways that have not yet been considered.

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