When the pandemic began, LaVita King of Bridgeport worried about how she would continue to see her behavioral health therapist and primary care physician at Southwest Community Health Center. She lives close enough to walk to the federally qualified health center but didn’t feel comfortable leaving her home in those early days, let alone venturing into a medical office. But she’s been able to access care through phone and video chats. “For me, it’s been such a lifesaver, such a blessing,” said King, 69. “Otherwise, I would not have been able to talk to my behavioral health therapist for this whole entire time.
After 35 years as an oral surgeon, Dr. Arthur Wilk closed his practice in Clinton following “daunting challenges” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Darien, Dr. Cecile Windels sold her pediatric practice to a hospital health system after enduring significant income losses. They are among thousands of physicians and other health care professionals across the country who have made coronavirus-prompted career changes such as closing practices, joining larger health systems and retiring early. The reasons for the moves vary from declines in income due to fewer inpatient visits to increased operational costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and fears of contracting the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Health care advocates say the changes will exacerbate physician shortages, further erode the existence of private practices, decrease patient choice of doctors and obstruct continuity of patient care. A January report in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal of health policy research, said: “Consolidation tends to lead to higher prices without strong evidence of quality improvements.”
“The national trends are definitely happening in Connecticut,” said Dr. Gregory Shangold, president of the Connecticut State Medical Society.
Veterans’ mental health and housing improved when they accessed free legal services in a Veterans Affairs facility, according to a study of veterans in Connecticut and New York City. The more legal services they had, the better they fared, experiencing reduced symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and psychosis, spending less money on abused substances and having better housing situations, the study found. In addition, the study concluded that mental health was improved even if veterans lost their legal battles. The study analyzed the legal/medical partnerships between the nonprofit Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) and VA Connecticut Healthcare and between New York Legal Assistance and two VA hospitals. It looked at free legal help given to 950 veterans from 2014 through 2016 and its effects on the mental health, housing, and income of 148 of those veterans followed closely for a year.
Federal rules against including prisoners in medical research have negatively impacted studies involving black men, who are disproportionately imprisoned, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers. Individuals who are already in ongoing studies must be dropped if they are incarcerated – compromising the ability of researchers to examine racial disparities in health outcomes studies, the Yale team says in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs. “A black man who begins a research study is less likely to follow up because he is statistically more likely to be jailed or imprisoned during the study than his white counterpart,” said the study’s first author, Dr. Emily Wang, assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine. The impact of incarceration on health outcome studies was far less among white men, white women, and black women. The study found that during the past three decades, high rates of incarceration of black men may have accounted for up to 65 percent of the loss of follow-up among this group.
‘Patient-centric care’ is one of those catch phrases that have little grounding in real-world patient-provider encounters. But later this month, hundreds of Connecticut health care consumers and clinicians will come together for a first-of-its-kind conference that aims to foster patient engagement in medical care. “Better Health: Everyone’s Responsibility,” set for Sept. 17 at the Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, is a step in bringing patients and providers together to discuss joint decision-making in medical care – from medication management, to end-of-life care, to navigating provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The goal of the summit – open to the public – is to break down barriers between providers and the people they serve, by giving both sides a crash course in key health-care issues and effective ways of communicating.