Healthcare is constantly adapting to allow patients to access care while being cost effective. One way the occupational therapy profession is trying to allow patients easier access to care is by being present in the primary care setting.
At Saint Louis University, students are able to take electives and participate in fieldwork that allows them to experience this “Primary Care model.” Sarah Detmer, a recent graduate of Saint Louis University’s OT program states, “O.T. broad training enables the provision of preventive services and ability to intervene sooner to promote wellness.” Ms. Detmer explained that she was able to identify issues patients may have in the future at a basic medical appointment. For example, if a patient needed to refill his medication for Parkinson’s disease, the occupational therapist could be present to address fall risk and issue appropriate durable medical equipment.
In Canada, occupational therapists are now a part of the Family Health Team, which allows for occupational therapists and other allied health providers access to patients during primary care appointments . Currently in the U.S., occupational therapists are not identified as primary care providers; however, as they continue to collaborate with other health care professionals, this may change according to Metzler in a recent Journal of American Occupational Therapy.
Adding Allied Health professionals into the primary care setting would allow patients better access to care with less expense and in a shorter timeframe. In addition, this could help physicians identify those appropriate for rehabilitative services. The team effort primary care model may just be what the United States healthcare system needs.
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