By Aletha Tippett MD
There has been a very interesting and disheartening development in the past two years. My practice has always had a small private wound care clinic, and we have always been busy with referrals from local physicians. But lately those referrals have evaporated, the reason being that the local physicians have become part of larger hospital-based systems. So now if they have a wound they refer it to the hospital wound center that is a part of their system.
The Fate of the Private Wound Care Clinic
Do the large wound centers at hospitals provide better wound care? I do not think so. My practice has a nearly 100% healing rate and nearly 95% limb salvage rate, and we still have word of mouth referrals from patients who do not get adequate care at the large hospital centers.
I have tried to negotiate a relationship with a large hospital, but there is no real interest in wound care from the hospital. It is all about the money—money that can be made by having me join their group, money that can be made by having their own wound center, money that can be made by having hyperbaric oxygen. Please do not think that all large hospital-based wound care is not good, because there is some that is very good.
So, how do patients reach wound care providers who will really work with them to heal their wounds? For us it means increased effort to get the word out about our services. We have mailed letters and information to all the remaining independent podiatrists and physicians. It also means enhancing our website to let people know what we do. Maybe these are things that should be done in this day and age, but are probably more important when competing against large entities.
What to Ask When Comparing Wound Care Options
What is key is that patients who are looking for wound care need to ask the provider key questions: What is your success rate? How will you work with me? How much will this cost? Just because you are seeing a large hospital-based wound center doesn't mean you will get the best care.
So far, we have a very loyal patient base that refers others to us, and there are a few independent physicians who will refer to us. We even get referrals now and then from a big wound center, especially when they don't know what to do with the wound. We are able to maintain our niche and continue to provide excellent care. We have several wound patients who drive 5 hours to come see us and it breaks my heart that they couldn't find good care closer.
Unfortunately, there will always be wounds for us to care for. Having different ways and avenues to treat wounds is valuable, so hopefully these different avenues will be able to remain available. As a small private clinic faced with enormous competition and a difficult financial environment, survival requires dedication, flexibility and innovation, which we continue to provide. We hope that other private clinics are also able to survive.
About The Author
Aletha Tippett MD is a family medicine and wound care expert, founder and president of the Hope of Healing Foundation®, family physician, and international speaker on wound care.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.