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Resident-centered care at the forefront

New medical director puts patient relationships first

Created date

November 6th, 2015

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Earlier this year, Dr. Jennifer Tam became the medical director at Linden Ponds. She has worked at the Erickson Living community’s on-site medical center as a staff physician for ten years.

As medical director, Tam oversees the clinical operations at Linden Ponds’ medical center and manages providers there and at the community’s continuing care neighborhood. Tam works closely with Ellen Curran, the practice administrator who oversees the business operations at the medical center.

“We always think of what is best for our residents, first and foremost, and base changes and improvements on this priority,” Tam says. “We need to balance this with making sure all providers and medical staff are engaged in their work and able to achieve their full potential.”

In her new role, Tam says one of her top priorities is to continue to make sure the Linden Ponds medical center delivers top-quality medical care. She says she uses a dashboard to track the center’s success as compared to other similar practices in the country.

“We typically score above average, but there is always room for improvement,” she says. “My goal every year is to make the quality of our care even better.”

Tam’s own approach to practicing medicine is to make her patients feel comfortable during visits. She says a patient’s history is key to figuring out an accurate diagnosis. Understanding someone’s medical history, she says, means listening carefully.

“It is a vulnerable position to be in the hot seat, so putting them at ease helps them open up to me,” Tam says. “I think it is important to listen very well and let them tell their story. Sadly, it is becoming a lost art in medicine.”

When she is helping her patients make decisions about their health care, Tam tries to make quality of life a central focus. “I often think of how I would approach things if my patient were my own family member,” she says.

Perfect alignment

Working at Linden Ponds allows Tam to practice medicine in a way that aligns with her own philosophy and values. While many practices rely on a business model that doesn’t give doctors much time with their patients, the Linden Ponds medical center ensures that physicians have adequate time to really get to know patients.

“In Erickson Living communities, the first visit is a full hour, which allows for more time than other practices,” Tam says. 

To ensure that patients’ medical histories are retained, the Linden Ponds medical center uses an electronic medical record system, where doctors and staff can enter as much information as needed. 

“We also offer a portal so residents have Web access to their own information,” Tam says. “They can communicate with their physicians via email, ask for refills, and print out their labs, among other things.”

Healthy living made easy

In addition to the unique attributes of the medical center, Tam says that simply living at Linden Ponds makes it easier for residents to stay healthy as they get older. 

“The community is set up to encourage healthful practices every day—from the healthy food options in every dining venue to the long halls encouraging walking as exercise,” Tam says. “Having a full-time medical center urges residents to partner closely with their care providers. We also have a fitness center that can tailor a program according to their physical needs.”

Tam reminds residents that they can stay healthy through prevention and a good diet that is heavy in fruits, vegetables, chicken, and fish. She reminds people of all ages to avoid processed foods, alcohol, and smoking. And, she says, everyone should have the goal to exercise most days of the week.

For older adults who want to stay healthy, Tam offers this simple but important advice: “Stay mentally engaged. Be a joiner. Volunteer. Learn something new every day. Keep connected with family and friends.”

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