Living Well: Why every person needs a primary care provider
When you hear “family medicine,” think of your family doctor — the person who provides you with general health care for all ages.
This person is also typically your primary care provider, the doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner that “takes care of your foundational health and coordinates your care when you might need to see a specialist,” said Julia von Allmen, Family Medicine physician assistant at Memorial Regional Health.
From basic immunizations and preventative care to more complex health issues, having a dedicated family health provider is always a great place to start. Our family is always ready to take care of your family!
To schedule an appointment with an MRH provider or staff member, call 970-826-2400 to reach the Medical Clinic or call 970-824-3252 to reach the Specialty Clinic.
Importance of primary care
Utilizing primary care physicians puts an emphasis on the physician-patient relationship by shifting the focus from physician-centered care to patient-centered care.
An increase of one primary care doctor per 10,000 people has been shown to result in:
- 5% decrease in outpatient visits
- 5.5% decrease in inpatient admissions
- 10.9% decrease in ER visits
- 7.2% decrease in surgeries
“‘Family medicine’ is your home base,” she said.
When choosing the right primary care provider, consider several factors: Insurance coverage, a doctor with the right expertise for your health needs, referrals, access and anything else that’s important to you.
“An excellent primary care provider uses his or her medical training to inform you on making sound health care decisions,” von Allmen said. “An excellent primary care provider uses that training, experience and compassionate bedside manner to partner with you. The result is that you feel cared for and supported in achieving your best health.”
Why everyone needs a primary care provider
Regular health exams can find problems before they start.
“They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Your age, health and family history, lifestyle choices (i.e. what you eat, how active you are, whether you smoke), and other important factors impact what and how often you need health care.”
When you’re sick or feeling worried about new symptoms, von Allmen said it’s ideal to partner with a primary care provider who already knows you and your baseline health. This person can be your “home base” to turn to in times of need, she said.
“If or when you get sick, you and your primary care provider can really focus on your symptoms and circumstances, since you have already established a relationship regarding current diagnoses, medications, previous problems, and your values and goals,” von Allmen said.
Avoiding the doctor can backfire
It’s common for providers to learn that patients have avoided seeing them for various reasons, but avoiding or delaying annual screenings can lead to more serious medical issues down the road.
Research shows that access to primary care helps people live longer, healthier lives. As many as 127,617 deaths per year in the United States could be averted through an increase in the number of primary care physicians available, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“Going to the doctor can be scary and intimidating. I think it is human nature to say, ‘Maybe it’ll just go away!’ Having a partnership with a family doctor can actually make that process less scary, more supportive and with better outcomes,” von Allmen said. “Financial and insurance stressors can certainly influence our decisions as patients about when to seek care.”
When patients put off seeing a doctor until something goes wrong, they could be missing out on early detection for things like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. For many serious health conditions or diseases, early detection can greatly improve a patient’s outlook.
“If there is something going on that needs treatment, knowing early is typically best,” von Allmen said. “And the support we offer by caring can actually be very relieving.”