Primary Care of Primary Importance
We all want to be healthy. We worry about the regular habits we have that either contribute to or detract from our overall health. How much time do we spend thinking about our healthcare providers? Selecting and using a Primary Care Provider (PCP) can improve your health and the quality of your healthcare experience. Let’s explore 3 reasons why having a PCP makes good health sense.
Longer and Better Lives
The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has actually studied this issue. They report adults who have a primary care provider are 19% less likely to die prematurely. Having a PCP helps provide consistency with your health care. You and your PCP begin a “health” relationship that develops with each visit. Your PCP monitors your health issues and maintains your health records. They will also ensure you are scheduled for preventative health screenings such as well woman, colonoscopy, prostate, blood work, etc. Preventative health screenings give you the opportunity to find health issues in their early stages, when they are more easily treated and less likely to be life threatening.
You will feel confident a PCP is invested in you, as an individual, when you find a PCP you feel comfortable with. Your PCP can become a long-term support in your life, allowing you to feel safe sharing non-health things that are going on in your life and may affect your health. Many people feel they get better advice and treatment by a PCP who knows them well.
Having the same PCP over time, also helps to establish a baseline for your health. All humans are different and “normal” for one might not mean the same thing as “normal” for another. Establishing baselines will help all of your providers track and evaluate changes in your health to better understand your health.
Whether or not we have the “best” healthcare in the world, we definitely have the most complicated! With more and more specialization, healthcare in the U.S. has become siloed and fragmented. There is a “specialist” for everything. Further, everyone is trying to maximize efficiencies, resulting in short appointments and abbreviated communication. Limited or poor communication between and among specialists can result.
Getting to know and trust a PCP provides you with a medical expert who can help guide you through more complicated medical diagnoses. Someone who you’ve built a relationship with and who understands how our complex medical system works can do a better job of referring you to specialists, clinics, hospitals and treatment programs. They can help you find a second opinion and help in coordinating specialist care.
A PCP can be a great resource for your emotional and mental health as well. They can be a trusted and confidential resource who can help refer you to professional counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists if the need arises for mental health care. It can be reassuring to get a confidential recommendation from a trusted physician. It definitely beats picking a name from a Google search or even asking a friend for a recommendation.
Having a PCP allows you to have a relationship with someone before you trust them with sensitive information or are required to trust their recommendations. It can even be beneficial for family members living in the same household to have the same PCP. That helps the PCP be aware of family dynamics and can avoid information having to be repeated.
Trusted PCPs supporting multiple family members often get to know patients well. They even ask how your pets are doing or what the most recent life events are going on with you and your family. A trusting relationship can help you feel like you are more than a number to your provider.
In the United States healthcare is costly. It is reported that up to 50% of all bankruptcies result from medical debt. In addition to improving quality of care, the ARHQ also reports that people who have a PCP on average spend 33% less on healthcare than peers who do not have a PCP. Routine check-ups with a PCP can help ward off serious health problems and keep people out of emergency rooms, where costs are often more than four times higher for the same services provided by a PCP.
The North Carolina Medical Journal studied ER costs. They discovered that in one North Carolina Emergency Room, 60% of their patients’ problems could have been addressed in a primary care clinic. Using primary care would have saved these patients 320%. Having a PCP can make a world of difference by saving you money and time in an emergency room or an urgent care if you become ill.
Access to Care Options
In the home health arena, we always patients who their PCP is. Surprisingly, many answer with the name of their heart doctor or a doctor they see often in an urgent care. They do not realize that these types of physicians cannot be a PCP. If people without a PCP become ill and need home health referrals, specialty physicians will seldom refer to home health. They see this as a responsibility of patient’s regular PCP. So, having a PCP that you see regular for checkups can benefit you in the long run.
When it comes to overall health, having a PCP means that you, as the patient, know you are receiving quality care. Having a PCP can also save you time and money, which in turn can help ease your overall stress. If you don’t have a PCP, there’s no better day than today to find one!