Every day, Dr. Leslie Miller of Fairfield thinks about selling her practice to a hospital health system. “Everybody who is in this environment thinks every day of throwing in the towel and joining a hospital,” said Miller, a sole practitioner in primary care for 20 years. “The business side is the problem,” she said, referring to expensive and time-consuming requirements of medical insurance and government regulations. Dr. Khuram Ghumman took the unusual route of working in a hospital system first, then going into private primary care practice because he objects to the “corporatization” of health care. He said conflicts of interest can arise if an owner and its employed physicians have different objectives.
Alison McGrory-Watson, a private cook who lives in Deep River, had serious medical problems, including Hepatitis C and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), when she was assigned Nichole Mitchell as her primary care provider at Community Health Center Inc. (CHC) in Middletown. McCrory-Watson was uninsured, and Mitchell went to great lengths to get financial assistance for two new drugs aimed at addressing her medical problems. As a result, McGrory-Watson is now Hep C-free, and she hopes a drug she’s taking for PTSD will quell the lingering effects of being gang-raped as a teenager and witnessing a brutal stabbing as an adult.
There’s something about Mitchell that might surprise you. She’s not a doctor; she’s a nurse. A nurse practitioner (NP), to be precise. But McGrory-Watson insists that the care Mitchell provides is every bit as good as she would get from a physician.
Medicaid will reimburse some health centers in the state for providing patients with access to medical specialist through electronic consultations, which some providers believe will increase low-income patients’ access to care. “The impact is potentially huge,” said Dr. Daren Anderson, director of the Weitzman Institute, which is the research and quality improvement arm of Community Health Center Inc. (CHC). CHC is a Middletown-based network of 13 health centers that includes facilities in New Britain, Stamford, Norwalk, Clinton, and Old Saybrook. An e-consult enables a primary care doctor to contact a specialist—for a second look at patient’s echocardiogram, for instance—and securely send part or all of a patient’s medical records electronically. The specialist then replies to the primary care doctor within a few days (but more typically within just a few hours), reducing the need for a patient visit to the specialist.