November 2009

IT'S SUNDAY!! Is There a Doctor in the House?

Author: Paul deVere

It happens. When you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail. Including your thumb, which you just hit and think might be broken. Of course, it’s Sunday morning.

That’s when you’ll meet either Dr. Joel Johnson or Dr. Lydia Torres-Rozof at Main Street Medical. Their urgent care and general practice clinic is open on Sundays, something unique to Hilton Head Island. One of them is always there. In fact, the clinic is open seven days a week. “That way you have continuity and availability,” Johnson said. That is one of the features both doctors agreed that makes Main Street Medical stand out. Being available all week and on weekends has other benefits Torres-Rozof said. “We can manage our time so that people don’t wait too long. And they don’t need an appointment.”

But the number one reason the two doctors think the clinic stands out is the staff. Johnson said, “They’re fabulous. They’re intelligent, compassionate and care about helping the patient any way they can. They’re very responsive.”

There are other efficiencies at the clinic that cater to patient care. In the age of IT, Johnson and Torres-Rozof welcome new medical technologies. They have a digital x-ray machine. “We can e-mail the image to a radiologist (when necessary) and get an interpretation in a few hours. We don’t have all the physical constraints that film required. Being able to enlarge an image so it’s easier to see is a big help. And it’s a better quality image,” Johnson said.

Torres-Rozof said a digital x-ray is also a big help for visitors to the island. “We just make them a CD of the x-ray they can take with them to their doctors back home.”

Medical records at the clinic are electronic. Storing medical records digitally not only eliminates all those filing cabinets associated with a doctor’s office, Johnson said, but the records are much more accessible. Pre-electronic medical record keeping has also been taken care of. “Old records are scanned in, and they’re all classified and very easy to retrieve,” Johnson said.

The clinic has also instituted the use of a medical scribe, who accompanies the doctor into the exam room and documents a patient’s visit, giving the doctor more time with the patient.

Johnson gives the credit for all things digital and attendant services at the clinic to daughter, Casey Johnson. “She spearheaded it,” Dr. Johnson said. A graduate of the University of Texas, Casey Johnson is earning her master’s degree in health administration from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston.

Along with the digital age came the Internet. Torres-Rozof said, “I like patients who come in and say they saw something on the Internet about their condition. Because, to me, that means they are looking into their own problems and making themselves responsible. Sometimes in today’s society we want to blame someone else. With the information they get on the Internet, they are more liable to follow up on my instructions.”

Johnson related a recent case where the Internet played an important part. “I had a patient, a few months ago, from out of town. He’d just started on chemotherapy and he had an adverse reaction. It was a relatively new chemotherapeutic agent. He came in with certain symptoms, so I had a chance to look on the Internet, found the drug, looked to see if this were symptoms associated with that drug. I had an opportunity to call his doctor. We reviewed the case, and planned management for that patient. The Internet was very helpful for us, too,” Johnson said.

He said it also makes it more interesting. “A patient will come in and say, ‘Doc, I ran it on the Internet and I’ve narrowed it down to two things.’ I say, well, can you tell me a little bit about what’s going on. They may have hit on something or they may not have. So I spend time talking to them about what I think they have and why the things they suggested may or may not be reasonable,” said Johnson.

“A lot of patients that I see are interested in the Internet. So sometimes I’ll say, ‘Here’s what I think you have, here’s my treatment plan. I know the first thing you’re going to do when you get home is to Google it to see if you think it makes sense.’ Makes it sort of fun for both of us,” Johnson said. “Doctors aren’t the only ones with the information anymore,” he added with a smile.

Johnson and Torres-Rozof came to medicine on very different paths. Johnson’s father is a doctor. “His office was in our house where we grew up. I had the opportunity to see how he practiced. He was always talking about the satisfying things concerning medicine and how much he enjoyed his practice. I got into it that way,” said Johnson, who practiced general surgery for 18 years in Portland, Maine, before moving to Hilton Head in 1996.

“When we got here, I decided to do a practice change and lifestyle change. It’s the best thing I ever did. I enjoy relating to patients on a regular basis,” said Johnson.

Torres-Rozof was raised in Cuba. “I would see people with severe infections out on the street, so I originally went into microbiology. That fascinated me. I became a medical technologist and worked as a technologist for about 15 years. When I had gone as far as I could in medical technology, I decided I wanted an MD. I went to medical school later on in life,” she said, smiling.

“I’m a people person. I like family medicine because I get to see a variety of patients. There is nothing boring about it. In one room I may have a 90-year-old, in another room I may have a baby, and in another, a middle aged person with different problems. That’s what I find rewarding,” Torres-Rozof said. “After living in Michigan for 23 years, she and her husband moved to the island four years ago. “As a doctor, I feel humble. People trust their lives in our hands. Some people do, completely,” she said.

“The practice of medicine is a real honor; it’s a wonderful privilege that we have. You couple that with the ability to prolong someone’s life, make their life more pleasant while making them healthier. It’s a very satisfying feeling,” Johnson said.

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