- Published: Friday, 29 January 2016 13:59
Everyone knew the new Horsemen’s Health System launched by the MTHA and Maryland Jockey Club last September was needed, but no one anticipated how quickly patient numbers would rise or how successful the program of new services provided by MedStar doctors would be.
In the four months since Sept. 12, when the new professional quarters at Laurel Park were opened, more than 275 patients have been treated by MedStar physicians for issues as simple as the common cold to those as complicated as the trauma suffered by jockeys falling from their mounts.
“So far, this is probably the most helpful program I’ve seen,” says Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission. “The partnership they’ve created [among the MJC, MTHA and MedStar] is the most productive and professionally run I’ve seen anywhere in the country. The individual record-keeping is tremendous; the availability of doctors to see patients on a regular basis; the rapid access to the MedStar network for things that can’t be dealt with at the racetrack; the welcoming atmosphere; the doctors on a regular schedule, allowing the development of doctor-patient relationships; and the electronic record-keeping that is portable – I really think this is a model program for the country and should be a standard.”
Hopkins elaborated that most U.S. racetracks provide “what’s required – minimum care.” The Maryland program substantially adds to it, going way beyond the minimum. The list of services being provided is long.
Doctors perform pre-performance physicals for jockeys free of charge. And if one takes a tumble, a MedStar doctor is on site to do an exam and the jockey isn’t allowed back in the saddle until he/she has a clean bill of health.
“If a jockey [or exercise rider] takes a fall, we can look them over and sign off on them right there,” says Dr. Frank Dawson, who serves as the medical director of the program from MedStar in addition to his duties as a team physician for the Baltimore Ravens. “If we fear a more serious injury, we hold them out until we are able to get them the proper tests and are sure it’s safe for them to return to riding.”
Asked how the riders have responded to the protocol, Dawson says the feedback has been phenomenal.
“There has been a level of trust developed very quickly between the riders and the physicians,” Dawson says. “They, of course, want to get back on the horses, but the level of trust has gone a long way toward the understanding that we have their best interest at heart.”
The on-site doctors – Dawson, Kelly Ryan, Saif Usman and Jeffrey Mayer – are serving as the horsemen’s primary care physicians and offer access to one of the nation’s most advanced systems of specialists from MedStar for continuing care.
Their schedules are posted regularly at the track kitchen and outside the newly designed professional medical office. Doctors have hours on all race days from one hour prior to the first post time until the last race.
Vaccines such as flu, pneumonia, tetanus boosters and others are available to horsemen, jockeys and track employees as well. And a continuing care program is in full swing to monitor and treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and others.
Dawson says MedStar even has a network doctor close to Laurel Park who is seeing patients that require more frequent monitoring than can be provided by the visiting on-site doctors.
And the backbone of all this is the electronic medical records system MedStar has set up to monitor the individual patients and their care.
“We closely keep track of people’s illnesses now,” says Diana Pinones, who serves as the Center Director for the program. “We can send them for bloodwork, xrays and whatever else they need. People now have primary care doctors they know and trust that follow up after they walk out our door."
Pinones says she also has been able to get horsemen qualified for Medicare, Medicaid, and other medical assistance they didn’t know they were qualified for.
“We’re here to help horsemen plain and simple,” she says. “Our workforce is a hard working bunch and often times neglect their heath because they work so much. The more assistance we can provide the better.”
Dawson says he wants it make clear it’s not a one-way street. MedStar is providing services, he says, but it wouldn’t be getting very far without the cooperation and trust of the racing community it is servicing.
“It has been a wonderful experience for everyone,” Dawson says. “I want to thank the racing community for really accepting us. As much as we are providing services to them, they have been willing to educate us about racing and the horsemen’s community. “The people are very receptive and we’ve formed a good bond and working relationship, with the staff, exercise riders, backstretch workers and with the jockeys, as well. It’s been really good for everybody. “
Dawson says the staff has been able to have low wait times and pick up the care of patients from the previous track doctors. “It’s been really great,” he says. “It really has been a smashing success.”