Cohesive Connectivity

Cohesive Connectivity

After Dr. Alissa Zingman was diagnosed with incurable Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, she developed a treatment protocol that changed her life. She opened a clinic where she could treat others with EDS and other joint-related issues. Teaching patients to advocate for themselves is a top priority for Dr. Zingman. Although the pandemic caused many difficulties, the advancement of Telehealth helped her see more patients and make her services more accessible.

How do you give patients comprehensive care when you cannot see them in person? Alissa Zingman, MD, M.P.H., has had to address this problem after her health and the pandemic changed how she provided care to her patients.

When Physician Outlook first featured this indomitable individual in an article titled "Chronically (Ch)ill", Dr. Zingman was in the process of streamlining her practice at P.R.I.S.M. Spine and Joint to be a fully comprehensive E.D.S. treatment facility. However, like many things in the life of a chronically ill individual, nothing goes smoothly or according to plan.

I started P.R.I.S.M. to combine my experience as a patient and athlete, my orthopedic knowledge, and my preventive medicine ethos to create a curated experience that will allow you to reach your goals. This is the practice I wish had been there for me."

Zingman's next hurdle was to make her treatments more affordable and widely recognized. Her waiting list for new patients was at one point more than five years. Zingman is writing a training manual to train other doctors. At one point she was also contemplating opening new clinics in other locations. Her goal is to find a cohesive way to connect (it is only mildly ironic that her goal is to CONNECT patients with the proper diagnoses and treatment modalities in a specialty that is all about aberrant connective tissues).

Finding staff is a struggle as many physicians have minimal (if any) training in E.D.S. and hypermobility disorders. It pains her that her services to date have primarily been available only to those who can afford them. Still, Zingman did not let Her E.D.S. diagnosis stop her, and she will not allow the current medical system to stop her either.

Pre-pandemic the original plan for her practice was to bring individuals to the P.R.I.S.M. site. Patients were encouraged to travel to Maryland for their initial appointment with Dr. Zingman and her team. Many patients chose to stay near the office to complete an "Intensive Program." The patient received customized treatments in a condensed fashion (i.e., 3-4 days per week; 3-4 hours per day) tailored to fit their personal preferences and comfort level. This "Bootcamp style" of services allowed individuals outside of the Maryland area to establish the groundwork of skills and knowledge to take care of themselves at home or teach them how to communicate with their in-network providers effectively. Zingman has found that the patients have had incredible results this way.

Necessity as the Mother of Invention

Unfortunately, the pandemic and her health issues made Zingman refocus her efforts. Instead of following the path of bringing patients to her and allowing her to work in an integrated environment: insurance hurdles, travel logistics, and lockdowns caused a fundamental shift in Zingman's approach. PRISM Spine and Joint is a fully functioning in-person office that integrates all approaches necessary to treat E.D.S., but only if the patient can get to it. The trick to continuing her ability to help her patients is making her services accessible. Telehealth became the solution to the bulk of her problems. Accessibility for individuals, especially during the pandemic, and caring for those with compromised immune systems was a definite hurdle. To address that, PRISM created the ability to provide insights about E.D.S. in ZOOM-based "Informational Sessions. “

Overcoming obstacles has become Dr. Alissa Zingman's "primary" specialty; when the pandemic and her health stopped her from treating patients in person, utilizing advancements in Telehealth allowed her to treat patients in any location. She took this platform and altered how she directed the improvement of E.D.S. care. While she is still working with her practice to create a comprehensive approach for doctors to diagnose and treat E.D.S., she has found that teaching patients to work with their OWN doctors can be more immediately practical. A representative at her clinic was able to clarify. "It is all about using the right words when speaking with their available physicians. She wants to show them how not to be overlooked or dismissed in their explanations." She is changing the vocabulary so that patients can advocate effectively for themselves. In this modern world, with the platform and procedures changing continuously, Dr. Alissa Zingman has found a way to cohesively connect patients with their care teams and modeling how to become effective advocates for themselves.

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