Collaborative care has long been championed as the way forward for effective treatment of uterine fibroids. One group of doctors has taken that call to action seriously by forming a network that promises to deliver better care for women suffering from symptoms of fibroids.
What is collaborative care?
Collaborative care is a model medicine in which primary care providers and specialists work together to provide care and monitor patients’ progress.
The Fibroid Treatment Network
A group of 40 physicians in Orange County, CA has created The Fibroid Treatment Network. This network refers patients among themselves to offer these patients the widest and best range of fibroid treatment options.
“The goal of The Fibroid Treatment Network is to ensure women are informed of all their treatment options,” says Dr. Todd Harris, Surgeon and Fibroid Specialist at The Fibroid Treatment Center in Newport Beach, Calif., and the network’s founder. “It all started about four years ago when I was treating a lot of fibroid patients. They were unable to find a gynecologist in their area willing to offer other options beyond hysterectomy.”
Failure to present fibroid treatment options widespread
Statistics show that a lack of doctors offering a variety of fibroid treatment options is significant and nationwide. Worse, it is an issue that leads to unnecessary treatment for fibroids in the uterus.
Take, for instance, the fact that 600,000 hysterectomies (the removal of the uterus) are performed every year in the United States, mostly for conditions such as fibroids.1 A full 18 percent of the surgeries performed for benign conditions such as fibroids were found to be unnecessary by a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.2
These unnecessary procedures are even more common among younger women. When the patient is under 40, the number of unnecessary hysterectomies rises to more than 37 percent of the total. Perhaps the most troubling statistic found was that almost 2 in 5 women were offered no alternative treatment options.
Why don’t doctors present options?
One theory regarding the reluctance of gynecologists to refer a patient to another doctor for alternative treatments, is that the gynecologist fears losing their patient. When the gynecologist recommends a hysterectomy, she or he may feel that they have a greater chance of keeping their patient, since OB/GYNs are the only doctors trained to perform that type of surgery. When instead they suggest the minimally-invasive uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) treatment, the patient needs to see an interventional radiologist.
However, one study has disproven that fear and show that, instead, referring patients out to specialists and apprising them of all their options actually yields the best results for both the patient and the gynecologist.
Collaborative care is best for both the patient and the doctor
This hospital-based study examined 226 women who had sought treatment for uterine fibroids. One hundred thirty eight patients out of this group had been referred by a gynecologist. Eighty-eight patients themselves found an interventional radiologist to perform the UFE procedure.3
Each woman was eventually referred back to a gynecologist, whether or not they underwent UFE. If the patient was happy with her gynecologist, she would be referred back to them. However, if she was unhappy with her original doctor, she would be referred to another network gynecologist.
The results of the study showed that 70 percent of the self-referred patients wanted to be sent back to their original gynecologist, while 92 percent of patients referred by their gynecologist were satisfied with their original doctor.
Overall, the study found, gynecologists received about 1.2 patients back for every patient they sent to the interventional radiologist.3 In addition, one of the primary reasons that patients chose not to be referred back to their original gynecologist was because that doctor had not informed them of all their treatment options.
Collaborative care goodwill
These findings show that a collaborative care network supports a “trusting, long-term, noncompetitive ‘win-win’ relationship” between specialties. Further, it actually “improves patient flow to a gynecologist practice”—and most importantly—“meets the patient’s desire for full disclosure.” 3
“In The Fibroid Treatment Network, we’ve found that having a collaborative referral base gives patients a group of doctors who are open-minded,” Dr. Harris explains. “Even if it means giving up a procedure or a particular surgery, gynecologists are still going to do what’s in the best interest of the patient. At the same time, they’re still going to get that patient back after outside treatment and most likely have a life-long doctor-patient relationship. The level of trust is there.”
“At the end of the day, no one type of doctor can take care of every fibroid patient,” Dr. Harris says. “It sometimes takes a team of doctors and different types of procedures to best care for a patient.”
VIVA EVE believe in fibroid treatment choices
Founded by an OB/GYN, the doctors at VIVA EVE have years of experience in the treatment of both uterine fibroids and adenomyosis through uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). We are provide high-quality, personalized care for each and every patient we see. We will partner with you to determine the best way to treat your problematic fibroids or adenomyosis symptoms.