In a society struggling to keep primary care physicians in practice, the need for a patient to have a primary care provider could not be more important. Fortunately, advanced practice clinicians such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners are helping to bridge the gap and bring access to primary care. But why is this type of care so important?
Primary care is the new description for what our grandparents would call their “GP”, or general practitioner. In their days, this was typically a physician who saw patients for wellness exams, as well as for any acute problems. This person(s) took care of the general population of the town regardless of age, ailments, or establishment of care. A person may have never seen the physician before, but if they went to the office, they were seen. In the “good old days”, these providers even made house calls.
In today’s society, we no longer have these general practitioners, but we have primary care providers. A patient has to become established with a provider in order to continue receiving care from them. This helps to keep the provider available to a particular population of patients, which ensures that they will be able to give appropriate care over the course of time. The type of care given is different now, too. This care consists of providing full physical exams, annual laboratory work, and management of chronic conditions. These conditions are usually hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and diabetes. However, some of these conditions can become advanced.
At this point, primary care usually ‘draws the line’ and a referral is made to a specialist. For hypertension, this may be a cardiologist and/or nephrologist. Diabetics with advanced disease are referred to endocrinologists. Even with seeing these specialists, primary care is still needed to keep managing all other aspects of the patient’s health. The provider can often be seen as the gatekeeper of a person’s healthcare. Specialists typically require a referral from primary care before agreeing to see a patient for the same rationale one has to be established with primary care; to keep the provider available to give care to the appropriate patients without overextending the clinician.
Many people have taken to visiting urgent care centers for their primary care needs. This is not appropriate and does not deliver the best care for the patient and their future. Urgent care centers can perform a limited amount of blood work, but their evaluation is only a brief snapshot of a person’s health status. They are not allotted the time for a full history taking or thorough physical exam, and they are also not able to look at a person’s health and development over a course of time. To add to this issue, some patients choose to visit various urgent care centers instead of using the same location every time. This can be a dangerous practice, since most of the time these providers can’t see each other’s records or results.
Not only does a primary care provider get to know your health, but they get to know you. They learn about your spouse, your children, and your job. This makes them more proficient in determining when you may be showing signs of a new medical problem or suffering with a mental health issue. This type of provider-patient relationship is sacred in healthcare because it is difficult to get in any other setting. Much in the way you would call a friend if you needed help, you call on your primary care to help with any medical needs first. Because they know their patients, they are better suited to give medical advice for knowing when a patient may need to visit an urgent care, emergency room, or can wait for an office visit.
Pediatricians care for a child from birth until adulthood, then primary care providers take over. When you establish yourself with a primary practitioner, you are setting yourself up to have good continuity of care for the remainder of your life (provided that you attend your annual visits as advised.) You will always have a medical professional keeping your best interests in mind if you have a primary care provider, and you will be in a better position to be referred for any specialized care you may require in the future.
At Connections Primary Care, we are ready to welcome you to our healthcare family and form a connection as your partner in health. We strive to provide excellent, up to date care to keep you at your very best. If you are ready to secure long-term wellness, please contact us today.