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The future of medicine looks brighter than ever

When discussing my career as a physician, I am often asked many questions. What do you think about the future of medicine? Have the government and insurance companies made your job impossible? If you had the choice, would you do it all over again? I bet you are ready to retire.

Well, I'm here to say no, I'm not ready to retire, government and insurance are just part of the process, I certainly would do it all over again and I am excited about the future of medical care.

Let me explain. I am a primary care physician. That means that in addition to all of the responsibilities, I get to know wonderful people, their families, their jobs, their relationships, their joys and sorrows, their fears and hopes. It is a wonderful experience to be able to share that knowledge and hopefully use it to help people stay well, recover from illness and better their lives. We share our lives and I look forward to each visit.

I have many cherished memories of wonderful people. Through my years of practice, many of them have passed away, but they will never be forgotten. As patients approach the end of life, I am there to help them and their families deal with the transition.

The Patient Centered Medical Home is one of the reasons I am excited about the future. As a primary care physician, it is a privilege to offer my patients and their loved ones a full range of services. I act as my patients' Medical Home, a health care setting that facilitates partnerships between patients, their physicians, their consultants and, when appropriate, the patient's family, to ensure that patients get the most appropriate care. This process is facilitated by new developments in information technology and health information exchange. Not only can I provide the care or guide them to the care they need, I can help them to deal with the regulations that often make getting or deciding about care very difficult.

My medical team is always there to guide and provide. I believe it is essential to be accessible and make patients aware and involved. I truly enjoy working with my patients on a daily basis to achieve these goals. I also believe that using this coordinated process will control utilization and cost in the system. Clearly, beneficial utilization of resources is necessary to provide the best prevention and care in a system with rapidly diminishing resources and increasing costs. A move in the direction of Medical Homes and increased primary care providers bodes well for the future.

Our team is now using an electronic medical record (EMR). This offers exciting possibilities for the future. I am aware of the expense and the time commitment to learning and using an EMR, but I believe it is well worth it. The EMR allows us to record, collate, share and review information so that we can learn best practices. We can now develop and share clinical standards and guidelines based upon clinical effectiveness achieved by gaining and sharing information. Standards of care help to eliminate variability and unwanted outcomes.

The EMR allows me to organize my thoughts, document my goals and discuss those goals with patients in a coordinated fashion. This process decreases the risk of mistakes and improves my ability to treat my patients. The EMR's fax/e-mail capability allows me to communicate with other providers. I can document my thoughts and plans and share them with the click of a button. And electronic prescribing not only eases my work, but prevents errors.

I am truly excited and look forward to the future of medicine as a primary care physician.

Fredric M. Hirsh, M.D., who lives and works in Williamsville, is excited about the future of medical care.

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