Posted on October 03, 2017
Your Primary Care Physician is Your First Line of Defense
Do you want to live longer, enjoy better health, avoid unnecessary emergency room visits, hospitalizations and surgeries, all while paying lower health care costs? Each of these goals can be realized through a relationship with a primary care doctor.
Primary care professionals (PCPs) serve on the front lines of healthcare. For many of us, they‘re the first point of contact with the healthcare system. They are often the first to see depression, early signs of cancer or chronic disease, and other health concerns. PCPs ensure patients get the right care, in the right setting, by the most appropriate provider in a way consistent with a patient’s desires and values. PCPs are, essentially, the quarterbacks of healthcare.
Why exactly is primary care important? Through routine check-ups, primary care can raise early warning flags of potentially serious health issues. Because of this, adults in the U.S. who have a PCP have 19 percent lower odds of premature death than those who only see specialists for their medical care.
And, if prolonged life were not enough, primary care lowers costs as well. Those with a PCP save 33 percent on healthcare over peers who only see specialists. Access to primary care helps keep people out of emergency rooms, where care costs at least four times more than other outpatient care. A study in one North Carolina ER found that nearly 60 percent of the patients’ problems could have been addressed in a primary care clinic for a savings of a whopping 320 to 720 percent—a value of three to seven times less!
Catching and treating problems early, which happens during annual check-ups, is also cheaper than treating severe or advanced illness. If each one of us saw a primary care provider first for care, this country would save an estimated $67 billion every year.
Primary Care Benefits
The importance of a PCP extends beyond his or her ability to cover a wide variety of medical issues. The Mayo Clinic wants Americans to understand that establishing care with a PCP provides consistency and efficiency on many levels:
Knowing who you are is one thing, but knowing the intricacies of your health and wellness is another. And the latter is something a PCP offers you and your family. This knowledge and familiarity helps personalize your care and save time that may have previously been spent explaining medical history, personal caveats, and who you are.
A PCP’s goal is to deliver the care that’s right for you—not employ a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailored health care is easier when you have a meaningful relationship with your provider.
Prevention and Condition Management
A PCP is responsible for screening all major health-related conditions. If you already have a chronic condition, your primary helps manage it and improve your quality of life.
PCPs screen for many things, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. They also look at immunization records and help with regular immunization refills. Those refills are more difficult if you don’t have a PCP.
Care in a Team Environment
PCPs are part of an expert team to meet your exact needs. These teams are commonly comprised of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses, patient access staff, and patient care associates. Contributing unique perspectives, the team approach provides well-rounded health care.
Do a bit of research, talk to friends or family, to select the PCP right for you. The continuity of care you’ll receive and the familiarity you’ll experience will help you get excellent medical care.
Emergency Department, Urgent Care, and Primary Care
People are often unsure of the right time to seek care with a PCP, urgent care, or the local emergency room. These options aren’t interchangeable and should be considered thoughtfully.
An emergency is when a severe condition arises—a life or death situation. Good examples are heart attack symptoms, stroke, or a severe allergic reaction. For such emergencies, go to the emergency room.
If, from a medical standpoint, you feel like your ailment can’t wait until tomorrow, urgent care is the place to go. The providers at CCHC’s New Bern Family Practice Urgent Care commonly diagnose and treat colds and coughs, ear infections, minor burns and cuts, rashes, and other non-life-threatening conditions. Our Urgent Care facility is open seven days a week and, in addition to just walk-in visits, patients can now request online appointments or call ahead, wait at home, and save a spot in line. Call (252) 638-CARE (2273) for more information.
Seek primary care for non-emergent needs, including checkups, flu shots, screenings, care for common illnesses, and immunizations. Primary care should always be your first stop if possible, but never in an emergency.
Journalist Christine Gorman, Scientific American magazine, reminds us that primary care is not a panacea, of course. Sometimes you really do need a brain surgeon to save your life. But more and more high-performing health care networks are noticing the benefits and reorganizing care delivery, as a report by the Josiah Macy Foundation concluded in 2010.
After North Carolina restructured some of its pediatric Medicaid programs in the late 1990s to emphasize primary care—providing more evening and weekend appointments and paying for more follow-up visits—hospitalizations for asthma dropped by 40 percent. In 2007, the Group Health Cooperative in Washington State determined that patient satisfaction was up, visits to the emergency room were down, and costs were lowered just one year after it began providing more primary care services.
Primary care doctors treat people, not diseases, with comprehensive, continuous, and compassionate care and will be your advocate and guide through the health care system. Find a primary care doctor with whom you feel comfortable talking and sharing your concerns. That doctor/patient partnership will help you live longer and enjoy better health.
Coastal Carolina Health Care (CCHC) offers primary care services with offices located in New Bern and Morehead City. CCHC is physician owned and operated and always welcomes new patients. Call our Patient Information Line today at (252) 633-4111 or visit www.cchchealthcare.com.
(Sources: Mayo Clinic Health System; Scientific American magazine; Michael Rabovsky, M.D., Cleveland Clinic; Primary Care Progress; Johns Hopkins University; New York University; and University of Massachusetts Medical School.)