Seeing the Whole Picture: Dr. Johnson and NP Kostadinov on Better Patient Care Through Teamwork

Aug. 14, 2018

Can a multidisciplinary approach to back pain reduce opioid addiction? That’s what Director of Physical Therapy Evan Johnson, PT, DPT and nurse practitioner Jane Kostadinov, NP, CNRN asked attendees during their panel at Columbia’s Interprofessional Practice and Education (IPE) Day.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (CUIMC/NYP) created the Columbia Commons Campus-Wide Interprofessional Practice and Education Day, or IPE Day, to bring together professionals from all areas of healthcare to talk about ways to improve patient care by working across disciplines. In other words, teamwork results in better patient care.

This type of collaborative care is near and dear to Dr. Johnson and NP Kostadinov’s hearts because it’s exactly how they and their team manage patient care at The Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York. The Spine Hospital is one of the few facilities in the nation where you will find neurosurgeons, nurses and physical therapists working together as a team, under the same roof.

If you see a spine surgeon at the Spine Hospital, that surgeon can stay in close collaboration with his nurse and your physical therapist to make sure you are getting the care and follow up you need. NP Kostadinov, for example, works with patients to coordinate both pre- and post- surgical care. Your providers can get instant feedback from one another about what is working, and what is not, and then adapt your treatment plan accordingly. You don’t see a surgeon in one facility and a physical therapist in another—instead, you get collaborative, multidisciplinary care.

The value of teamwork goes beyond the specialties of nursing, physical therapy and neurosurgery. All the providers here value of teamwork and a more person-centered approach to medicine. And that’s exactly what the medical professionals at CUIMC/NYP’s IPE Day were there to discuss.

Dr. Johnson and NP Kostadinov’s workshop at IPE Day looked at “The Personal and Societal Costs of Chronic Low Back Pain” and whether a multidisciplinary approach to back pain could reduce disability, opioid dependence and the related costs to society. Chronic low back pain costs millions of healthcare dollars every year in the United States and can result in many lost days of work.

The reason that treating non-specific low back pain can be complicated is that the exact cause is often difficult to find. In fact, even with all of today’s medical technology, doctors can only find a cause for non-specific low back pain about 15 percent of the time. According to Dr. Johnson, this is because the parts that make up the lower spine are interdependent, and they respond to the stresses of everyday life in different ways.

When the problem cannot be accurately diagnosed and treated, patients sometimes turn to long-term use of pain medications, which in turn can lead to addiction. Healthcare providers and government officials have been trying to solve the problem of treating chronic pain while keeping patients and communities safe from opioid addiction.

But when surgeons, nurses, nurse practitioners, physical therapists and other team members work together they can find creative ways to help patients reduce and manage chronic pain without the need for addictive painkillers.

IPE Day was a great success. Dr. Johnson was excited to see that the collaborative healthcare models presented at the workshops “led to imaginative and interesting solutions to patient spinal conditions” and the chronic pain they often cause. That’s what interprofessional action is all about—examining the whole picture to meet the complex needs of each and every patient.

Learn more about Dr. Johnson at his bio page here.

Learn more about NP Kostadinov on her bio page here.

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