Dr. Phillip Iozzi of UPMC

Dr. Philip Iozzi of UPMC discusses the importance of visiting your PCP or family medicine physician and from prevention screenings to managing chronic illnesses, how those visits can lead to long-lasting health.

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It’s a regular checkup that could just save your life. A visit to your PCP or family medicine physician. Hi, I’m Tonia Caruso. Welcome to the UPMC HealthBeat Podcast. And joining us right now is Dr. Philip Iozzi. He is a family medicine physician with UPMC. Doctor, thanks so much for joining us.

– Hi Tonia, thank you very much.

– So let’s begin first, talk about the role as sort of being the first line of defense or really first line of offense in someone’s healthcare.

– We are both the offensive team and the defensive team. Being a family medicine physician in primary care, we want to be your first contact. We wanna help navigate you through your healthcare choices and your decisions and healthy decision making, preventative services. We also wanna assist in making sure we talk to you about the routine cancer screenings that might need to be done. Or other types of routine blood tests to screen for diabetes, for high cholesterol screening for hypertension. So primarily we’d like to focus on preventative healthcare, in order to prevent those diseases from developing. But we’re also able to treat a vast array of diseases as well.

– So I know that you are located in Cranberry is your office where you see patients. As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, and we started to make preparations in the Pittsburgh area. Can you talk about changes that you made in your office at that time.

– At first, we had to really limit our office hours and provide a lot of just phone call services. Making sure we’re responding to patient’s messages, refilling their medications, answering any questions for them. And then a few days into things, we were able to launch our telemedicine services and our telephonic services. Which thankfully UPMC has a broader array of platforms where we could communicate with patients.

– Now we’re saying to folks, it’s a good time to come back. And why is it important that patients come back and see you in person.

– It’s extremely important. There’s nothing like the in person visit. There’s nothing like talking to somebody, touching them, examining them, listen to their heart, listen to their lungs. That’s crucial, but I want to say it is amazing how much we can do with telemedicine. And we’ve been very fortunate with that. But so many people during the COVID crisis they really put off health care. They were afraid to go out, they were afraid to get their general checkups done. They were afraid to get their routine screening done or their blood work done. And even more concerning is they were, sometimes afraid to seek healthcare for particular symptoms. Those conditions could have easily have worsened into more severe cardiac conditions or neurological conditions. So that was quite concerning for a lot of physicians, patients just being afraid to seek care. Not only routine care, but an illness that needed to be investigated. So it’s crucial that we relaunch and make sure patients are aware that, they’re able to come into a very safe environment through our outpatient offices.

– Then let’s talk about some of the safety precautions in place.

– There are a tremendous amount of safety precautions. It does start off with a proactive pre-appointment screening process. When patients are scheduling an appointment, they are usually screened at that time for concerning symptoms. They’re also screened when they present to our office as well. You may also notice from a safety standpoint, some of our office waiting rooms may look a little different. Our office has somewhat of a larger waiting room, with many chairs that we have removed a lot of the chairs. So we have a least six feet in between chairs where patients sit. So we’re doing social distancing in the waiting room. Patients will need to present with a mask. If they don’t have a mask, whether it’s a cloth mask, or a surgical mask, they will be given a mask as well. Patients also should feel safe because we are also having certain zones in our office that are for higher risk patients.

– Can a patient come to you or to their PCP or family medicine doctor to be tested for COVID?

– No, we do not do testing in the office. We do submit an order for that to be done. And that’s done in a separate UPMC facility in your area.

– And so what protocols are in place to make sure the staff is safe and healthy?

– Well every day before entering the building, our staff have to take self screening questions. If they screen positive to any of the questions, then there’s a protocol in place for that. The staff are all wearing our masks. We’re all practice social distancing, proper hygiene is crucial. They’re also making sure they sanitize the high touch areas in the office. And also making sure that even on their breaks, they’re practicing social distancing.

– And so in your role in being able to see very young patients through seeing the elderly, talk about the importance of connecting with your patient, knowing your patient, and really following them and knowing their medical history.

– I speak for myself and probably a lot of family medicine physicians. We do enjoy being a part of the patient’s life. So it is important to develop a relationship with that patient. Do regular checkups. We strive for yearly checkups, even when people are healthy for their preventative maintenance. Sometimes we’re seeing patients who have more complex medical conditions, maybe every six months or sometimes more frequently than that. But it is very important to, for the physician to develop a comfortable relationship with the patient, and to have the patient get comfortable with you as well.

– And so when a patient does come in just for the regular checkup, what are some of the things that you look for and that you wanna make sure that they are okay.

– Part of our patient contact, our patient visits always starts off as a routine conversation. How are you doing? Any physical complaints? We go through things which we call a review of systems, talk about different aspects, like your cardiac system. Are you having any shortness of breath or chest pain or your pulmonary system, or a cough and mucus production, your GI system. So we’ll go through all these systems, listen to the patient. We also talk about the emotional health as well, which is extremely important. And then once we figure out if they have any unique complaints, we’ll do a physical exam. We usually say the head to toe exam. And then if we need to focus on certain body parts we’ll definitely do that. So once the physical exam is over, if we notice anything of concern, let’s say a suspicious mole. If it’s something that we could handle in the office and do a biopsy we can, or refer them off to see a specialist such as a dermatologist in that case.

– And so doctor, what are some of the benefits of being a physician in the UPMC health system in particular?

– Well, thankfully we do have a vast array of not only family medicine doctors, but we do have extremely amazing specialty physicians throughout all of UPMC. The primary care doctor, your family physician should be your navigator. We’d like to help you make those right decisions. So we want you to come to us first to talk about whatever element you might be concerned about. And if we need to get a specialist involved, then we could submit what we call a consult for you to be referred to the specialist. That specialist in turn will help us to co-manage we’ll co manage your case together.

– Doctor, what are some of the other reasons why it’s important that folks should have a primary care physician or family medicine doctor?

– That’s a very good question. As I mentioned earlier, we do wanna help navigate your care. There might be other scenarios where maybe it’s on the weekend and you need to call our primary care doctors. Now we do have a robust array of ways we could care for you outside of normal office hours. If you do need to be evaluated, we could help direct you in the right location, whether it’s referring you to one of our walk-in centers or an urgent care center. And maybe talk to you even further in order to prevent an unnecessary ER visit. Or direct you to the ER, if that’s what your complaints maybe more suggestive of.

– Dr. Phillip Iozzi, some great information. Thank you so much for coming in and spending time with us today we appreciate.

– Tonia, thanks very much. It was my pleasure for being here.

– Thank you, and I’m Tonia Caruso. Thank you for joining us. This is UPMC HealthBeat.

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