By Bonnie Cavanaugh
The podiatrists at Feet ‘N Beyond of New Jersey, P.A., are changing up the way they operate – literally – with newer, less-invasive surgery procedures that allow their patients to better plan for, endure, and heal from foot surgeries.
It’s part of the practice’s effort to become the “go-to family foot doctor” for the Warren, Sussex and Morris tri-county area, says Curtis Mack, marketing coordinator for the office. The practice has been in Hackettstown since April 2008, and moved to its current location on Mountain Ave. in September 2017.
The office operates as a private practice, though it is part of a “super group” of foot specialists across the state called the New Jersey Podiatric Physicians and Surgeons Group (NJPPSG), Mack says. Membership enables the practice to offer new technologies and other perks not normally available to small practices: it accepts all insurances, and allows patients to access its sister locations statewide. Currently there are 15 practices in the NJPPSG, with 32 doctors.
“It’s a better way to provide care to everybody in the community,” says Dr. Helene Nguyen, who shares the Feet ‘N Beyond practice with her husband, Dr. Yong Zhu.
Twenty years ago, a foot operation was far more complicated and required the patient to spend from six weeks to three months on crutches; now, a patient can often walk the same day.
Yet health care has become more complicated over the years, especially since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, which included mandated policy changes for the private practitioner, Dr. Nguyen says.
That’s why alliances among caregivers, such as the NJPPSG, can be critical to their operation and their ability to provide the most comprehensive care. “You have to rely on a bigger group [today] for everything from logistics to critical care,” she says. “In the group, we have better support that way.”
“In this day and age, we have information on our fingertips,” she adds. But the technology for minimum invasive surgery in foot care hasn’t always been cost effective for practitioners or patients.
She describes this procedure as an alternate way to complete traditional surgeries, with a quicker recovery time. The practitioner can now correct bone alignment through “a very tiny incision,” allowing the patient to recover faster and have less pain during the recovery period.
“We want to focus on this now more so than we have been doing,” she says.
Minimum invasive surgery can be done either at a surgical center or in the office, either of which would be more cost effective for the patient. Otherwise, fees for hospital use, a surgeon, and an anesthesiologist “can be overwhelming” for the patient, she adds.
Although Feet ‘N Beyond treats every age group from little ones to the elderly, the type of patient tends to vary with the seasons, Dr. Nguyen says. “In the springtime, kids become more active in after-school sports,” she says. “Then in summer, there’s summer camp.”
Children are involved in athletics “much more so” today than a few years ago, and that puts extra stress on their growing feet. “Constant sports can affect the way they walk,” she says. Usually a coach or trainer will notice if a player is walking or running incorrectly; sometimes the parents will notice.
“Usually, it’s not the parents calling, but the grandparents who come to us,” Dr. Nguyen says. “They notice their grandchildren are not running right.”
In autumn, Feet ‘N Beyond begins to see more adult patients, especially middle aged adults, who’ve been barefoot or wearing sandals or flip-flops all summer. Switching to closed-toe shoes can reveal heel pain, hammertoes and a host of different conditions, she says.
Each patient benefits from medical technologies the practice uses that sets it apart from other foot clinics, Mack says. One is laser technology as an advanced treatment in clearing toenail fungus, which does not require the patient to take any medications after the procedure—very important for patients who may have multiple medical issues and already use prescription medicines, he says.
The clinic also provides in-office testing for nerve and circulation damage; a secure Patient Portal, where patients can access their health records, schedule appointments and check lab results; and shockwave therapy for chronic heel pain syndrome or plantar fasciitis, and other tendonitis conditions.
Dr. Nguyen hopes the clinic’s future brings them more advanced technologies as they are perfected, so she and Dr. Zhu can do more to help their patients.
“The human mind is continually evolving and inventing better technologies,” she says. “I tell most of my patients that if we live long enough, there’s going to be so much more advanced technologies out there for our office to utilize.”
Social media has also made it easier for patients to keep up with events, health tips, and announcements from Feet ‘N Beyond; which can be accesed on all major social media platforms.