Diversify Your Primary Care Practice
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 30 - NO. 12 - DECEMBER 2021
Many primary care physicians have an interest in sports medicine but see the field as reserved for subspecialists. I, however, see sports medicine as a great way to add diversity to your practice and, at the same time, address today's evolving medical climate.
The way we practice medicine has changed so much over the past 10 years that it is almost impossible to predict what it will look like in a few years. Even time-honored traditions such as history taking and the physical examination have been permanently altered by the development of intelligent, branch-chain questionnaires and sophisticated imaging studies. On-line "patient care" is beginning to appear. Given this unpredictability, then, how can you best position yourself for the future?
One way of preparing for the uncertainty is to diversify your knowledge and skills. Subspecialization carries the risk that a new technology could rapidly diminish the need for services within that subspecialty. Primary care medicine carries less risk for such radical change, but the specters of managed care and competition are very real. Developing a niche in sports medicine can be an important way for primary care physicians to add valuable expertise to supplement their already much-needed skills as generalists.
Sports medicine is an excellent area in which to develop such expertise. It is the last frontier, in terms of areas that have become medical subspecialties. Its principles of exercise and health are ubiquitous and can be incorporated into almost any primary care practice. Since sports medicine is not covered in much detail in medical school or postgraduate training, though, this requires an effort by the practicing physician to obtain new knowledge.
But resources are readily available. In addition to The Physician and Sportsmedicine, there are several excellent journals in the area of primary care sports medicine. Several medical societies sponsor excellent scientific meetings and provide other valuable information. For example, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Team Physician Course is an important resource for learning. Also, the ACSM annual meeting includes numerous case reports and offers small-group sessions on physical examination and patient management. It also serves as a forum for interaction with a variety of professionals and provides a number of experts to seek out for networking.
In addition to increasing knowledge and skills in this area, don't overlook the importance of developing a relationship with a good orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist. Many other clinical specialties can be involved in providing integrated care, but primary care sports medicine, orthopedic surgery, and physical therapy are three cornerstones of clinical practice.
It may take a while to assemble all the pieces—increased clinical proficiency, good collegial referral relationships, involvement with a population or team, and cultivation of a subset of your practice that is sports medicine. But it is a worthwhile endeavor. Sports medicine and the principles it embodies are central to healthy living. And in times of rapidly changing technology, diversification is central to a healthy practice.