According to a story from The Rheumatologist, evidence suggests that patients with rare diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, can benefit from visiting combined clinics, which are special medical centers in which a variety of specialists can see the same patient. Many rare diseases often have impacts on a variety of body systems, meaning that input from specialists is critical for a patient to get the most effective treatment.
Seeing Multiple Doctors at Once
Many patients with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and scleroderma, benefit from visits with a variety of specialists, including rheumatologists and dermatologists. Most patients are faced with the exhausting and complicated process of traveling to multiple different centers in order to see multiple specialists, but a combined clinic can simplify the situation dramatically and can improve outcomes as well as provider and patient satisfaction.
Unfortunately, combined clinics are very uncommon, with only 20 currently operating the US, mostly through academic medical centers. When specialists look at a patient independently, they can give input but often cannot take into account other advice that a different doctor may have given a patient. When multiple specialists are present, a more informed and comprehensive treatment approach can be decided upon.
Many Benefits, But Many Challenges
Studies have shown that combined clinics can make the treatment process more efficient, resulting in more rapid treatment and improved outcomes for patients. On the other side of things, physicians who may be experiencing burnout find that working in a combined clinic can be more interesting and allows them to learn new things not only from patients, but from one another as well.
The combined dermatologist/rheumatologist visit has not come without its challenges, however. First and foremost, rheumatologists usually take more time to check in with a patient, which cuts down on the number of patients the dermatologist can see. While it is clear that many rare disease patients could benefit from new combined clinics, logistical hurdles must be accounted for; rotating clinic participants has been useful and the challenge highlights how the specialization tendency makes it more difficult for rare disease patients to be effectively treated.
We need more combined clinics to improve patient care, but it takes careful planning and organization in order to make one work.