Jonathan Tripp, DO, has run a medical practice before, but this one is growing faster than average. Since he launched Tripp Family Medicine in Twin Falls, Idaho, in May 2012, the influx of new patients has been steadily increasing, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I know that very quickly, the patient population is going to surpass what I can do,” said Tripp, a graduate of Missouri’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Just two months after launching his practice, Tripp brought on Russell Singleton, PA-C, to help manage the patient load. Now, according to Tripp, the practice is able to assist a greater number of patients while still being able to offer same-day appointments. And on days when Tripp is out of the office covering the local ER, Singleton manages the clinic’s patients.
The practice serves the community of 50,000, but extends its reach to 150,000 because of patients in nearby towns who travel to Twin Falls for care. Tripp calls it “true family medicine” with patients ranging from newborns to senior citizens, the well-insured to the uninsured, presenting with everything from the common cold to multiple chronic illnesses.
Singleton, an Idaho native, chose to attend the PA program at Idaho State University with the goal of remaining in state to practice medicine. To say his home state is facing a provider shortage is an understatement: Idaho ranks 49th in the number of physicians per capita.
“That’s a big problem. There is logistically no way that we can meet the current demand, not to mention future demand,” Singleton said. “I think PAs are going to have to step up and provide more care. And being on a team where we are valued and promoted is an ideal situation.”
When Tripp invited Singleton to join his practice, the physician was looking for a colleague who could provide the same level of care, but at a lower cost to the practice than hiring another physician.
“The intense and carefully focused training model of PAs allows a high-level practitioner to be produced in half the time and at half the cost,” Tripp explained. “This cost savings translates into decreased overhead, which is absolutely essential in an environment where payments to primary care providers are constantly dwindling.”
Tripp’s goal is to build a medical team made up of clinicians who provide seamless, high-quality care to patients. “I really want the physician assistants I work with to be operating at the level I have, or even better, as they are willing to continue their own education and take whatever experience I can give them,” Tripp said, noting that his ideal medical team would include two more PAs. He chooses to work with PAs because they “are well-prepared to serve as part of a team, and studies have shown that patient satisfaction with PAs is extremely high.”
Tripp and Singleton bring a similar medical philosophy to the practice, which translates into a shared vision for patient care. “We both understand that the patients are responsible for their own health, and that we as primary care providers are in a unique position to help them take responsibility for themselves, to educate them about good health, about nutrition, about exercise, and then to assist them in whatever way possible,” Singleton explained. “We are really on the front lines of healthcare as primary care providers.”
According to Tripp, that frontline access presents a unique opportunity to incorporate preventive healthcare into each patient visit. “I’ve worked in major metropolitan areas and I’ve also worked in towns as small as 10,000,” noted Tripp, “and promoting the overall health of the community has lasting effects both on our practice, as well as the health of the patients. The results of a preventive focus are healthier and happier patients, patients who spend less time in the hospital and more quality time with their families.”
Singleton has incorporated new techniques into the practice that focus on prevention. When he noticed that obesity was a problem in their area, Singleton began writing up a plan for addressing weight management at patient visits. He also contacted several local businesses to see about offering free on-site blood pressure screenings to their employees.
“My job is to support [Dr. Tripp] and to extend the services of our practice so that more people can benefit from what we’re offering here,” Singleton said. “Being united in that model makes us an effective team.”