Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Innovative practices earn national recognition for doctor in under-served rural N.C. county

On paper, Hoke County, North Carolina (Best Places map), "is the portrait of a medically undeserved community," Marti Maguire reports for The News & Observer in Raleigh. The county of 47,000 has three primary-care doctors, about one per 16,000, compared to a state average of 1 to about 1,500. Almost one-fifth of the residents live in poverty "and about the same percentage are uninsured."

One family doctor has become the county's "secret weapon," Maguire writes. For more than 24 years, Dr. Karen Smith's Raeford-based practice has changed what patient care in the rural community looks like. "Despite challenges and opportunities to move on," Smith, who "knows her patients by name," has fought common health woes such as diabetes and heart disease, even making house visits in her pickup truck for those who can't travel.

Smith was named national Family Physician of the Year for 2017, "thanks in large part to her innovative use of technology and preventive care to maintain the health of her large patient base," Maguire writes.

Dr. Karen Smith
Her "forward-thinking use of electronic records started as soon as she got to Hoke," Maguire writes. The practice she entered had 18,000 paper charts for their massive patient load. "We got the paper charts, and we organized them electronically," Smith told Maguire. "We became one of the early adopters."

Smith kept exploring innovative uses of technology for her patients, Maguire writes: "The results are impressive. For example, she can pull up the test results of all of her patients whose diabetes is going untreated, along with their contact information. Then, she can set a date for all of them to come in at once to get information on how to improve their condition, as well as one-on-one consultation, and send notices via email and text message." (Read more)

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