One Great Idea: A health care town hall

Our One Great Idea series features a health care suggestion this week. The suggestion comes from Alexander R. Vaccaro, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Attending Surgeon of Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He is board certified in Orthopaedic Surgery and is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics.

Here is a transcript of the video in which Dr. Vaccaro offers his idea:

My name is Alex Vaccaro, I'm a spine surgeon at the Rothman Institute, I'm a professor of orthopedics and neurosurgery, and I have probably the greatest idea to bring health care to the masses. We are a medical city, like Boston: Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia... The problem is, patients don't have access. Are you sitting around and you have neck pain, back pain, elbow pain, and you just want to talk about it to someone? You don't want to get in the car, drive to the inner city, park your car, and see a doctor. How about having a town hall once a month where every specialty gets out, has a group of ten to fifteen doctors in that specialty - just talk to the people, we'll answer any questions you want... It's not treating a patient with a problem, just discussing problems.

We will do that on a volunteer basis. I would love, from an orthopedic perspective, to sit down with little kids or grandparents and talk about whatever problems they have, and then they could say, "You know something? I need to see a doctor." Or, "You know, this is a common problem. I probably don't have to see anybody." People tend to behave better and take better care of themselves if they're educated about their bodies. We know the simple things - don't smoke, don't drink, don't eat too much - but there are so many other things about vitamins, exercises, when not to overdo it, when to get more active, what you need to do before childbirth to make sure you have a healthy baby ... 

All those things, education is so important and it's difficult to see a physician to get educated. People don't want to do that, they only want to go when they're in trouble because of co-pays and expense. Why don't we go to them? At no expense to them? And teach them, educate them? And get to know our patients better in a more relaxed environment.

And we also can talk about the politics of care. "I have a problem seeing a patient because I have medicare." We'll help you navigate this problem. We basically open it up and help people talk and feel more comfortable about their health. Who knows, they may stop smoking, they may stop dangerous behavior, they might not even think about taking a drink before they get into a car. These are the things we talk about. I could talk about my experience in the emergency room every day. I've seen these poor little kids come in with all sorts of injuries and I could say, listen, as a simple public safety message, don't do this or that or that and we could communicate. 

Physicians need to go out to their patients like the old days of doctor visits. We now need to do that with a town hall model. The politicians introduced the concept forty years ago... it is a great idea for providing medical healthcare. We go out and bring the care to the patients so they don't have the burden of coming towards us.

Watch the video

To check out more Check Up items go to