Broadening the Reach of Well-Woman Care

In years past, the primary care physician was a patient’s main point of contact for health care. Today, it’s not uncommon for a patient to regularly see three or more doctors for a combination of primary and specialty care needs. But even though we share patients, we don’t often collaborate across specialties on how to provide the best care for individual women. This can cause obvious complications—such as errors in prescribing medications—but, more importantly, it can lead to missed opportunities for improving health and wellness during face-time with our patients.

As part of my presidential initiative, I convened a task force of women’s health professional organizations, including primary care physicians, obstetrics nurses, midwives, physicians assistants, and others, to discuss well-woman care and look at ways we can work together to take advantage of each patient interaction. Bringing all these groups to the table to talk consistency and continuity in treating the whole woman is an important step toward more comprehensive care with Every Woman, Every Time she sees a doctor.

A woman’s reproductive health and goals affect many facets of her care. For example, a neurologist needs to be aware of a patient’s desire to breastfeed or become pregnant before prescribing certain medications. And I believe that contraception is as important a topic for a reproductive-age woman with diabetes as her blood sugar level is. Every woman of reproductive age, seeing any provider, should be asked about her reproductive goals. And while we ob-gyns talk extensively about reproductive concerns, we should be talking to patients about wellness-related issues such as a woman’s risk factors for heart disease and the importance of getting to or maintaining a healthy weight.

To make meaningful changes in the way we think and conduct patient care, all of us in the medical community must deliberately seek out the bigger picture. We will have to work together to set shared goals and establish referral relationships. As ob-gyns, we should make a point to reach out to our colleagues in other specialities, underscoring the importance of preconception care and reducing unplanned pregnancies, and encouraging them to always consider the reproductive health of their female patients.

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