Rather than waiting for an appointment with a primary care physician to get a referral to physical therapy, Maj. Joanna Borawski, 359th Medical Operations Squadron physical therapist, and her team at the physical therapy clinic, have been scrubbing family health physicians’ calendars looking for patients who can be seen directly by her.
“We call those patients and ask ‘would you rather be seen today?’” Borawski said. “They’re usually thrilled.”
So far, Borawski and her team have been able to treat 35 patients, often getting the patients in for their initial consult within the same day or week.
“Of course our mission is to be able to get people back to the mission sooner,” Borawski said. “But my favorite part is getting them back to what they love doing – playing with their kids, back to walking with their wife.”
One patient complaining of calf pain was seen a week before his scheduled appointment with primary care.
“We figured out pretty much right off the bat that the issue wasn’t with the calf. He came in at noon and by 4:30 p.m., we called him to let him know he had a stress fracture,” Borawski said. “If he had continued running on that – and he was – it was a pretty complete fracture but it could have been a much worse. Since we were able to see him sooner and get him treated, we can get him healed and running again sooner.”
The program started in July when Borawski heard the manning reports in a staff meeting, saying the family health clinic only had five out of 14 providers.
“Whoa, hold on. I think we can definitely help,” she said.
Since then, her initiative has freed up appointments in family health for other patients.
“Having physical therapy taking some patients with musculoskeletal issues off of our schedules has really helped in freeing up appointments for other patients who need to be seen which is crucial in a time when our access to care is limited,” said Capt. (Dr.) Karla Ivy, 359th MDOS family health clinic medical director. “I have had a couple of patients who have told me that they appreciated the chance to get seen sooner for their musculoskeletal complaint, so I believe this new process to be benefiting not just the providers of both clinics, but our patients as well which is most important.”
The physical therapy clinic is also direct access, meaning patients can self-refer to the clinic without first going to their primary physician. Borawski also makes squadron calls, providing services to unit members who have more strenuous jobs, like security forces and the flying training squadrons. These initiatives further free up appointments in family health.