Over the last several years, there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of primary care. "Patients often require less care from specialists." "Patients have better outcomes." "There are fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations." "The whole healthcare system saves money."
The thing is, not everyone really knows what a primary care doctor does.
- Do they perform annual check-ups?
- Do they take care of you when you've got a fever and a runny nose and a cough that keeps your whole family awake?
- Do they make referrals to and coordinate care with necessary specialist providers?
- Do they conduct follow-up care after a patient has seen a specialist or been discharged from the hospital?
- Do they do recommended well-child and well-woman exams?
- Do they stitch you up when you've cut open your finger?
- Do they screen for health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer?
- Do they manage care for chronic conditions?
- Do they order diagnostic labs and imaging, and review the results to help their patients get answers to nagging health concerns?
- Do they assess your habits and routines, and make recommendations that can put you on a path to better overall health and wellness?
YES. Your primary care doctor does ALL these things and more. Primary care doctors can take care of your acute needs (i.e. the fevers and the stitches). They are your best source for preventive care via regular check-ups and screenings. And they can provide the most effective management of chronic conditions by tracking treatments and prescriptions, assessing the efficacy of those treatments, and coordinating with necessary specialists to make sure all your healthcare providers are working together to achieve your optimum health. They are the front line of health care.
Your primary care doctor is concerned with your total health and wellness. While that can mean diagnosing and treating your immediate physical symptoms or injuries, there's much more to it. In addition to illness and injury, your diet and exercise habits, social habits, family life, work demands, general stressors, and your family medical history all make up a piece of your personal health and wellness puzzle. Your primary care provider looks at each of those pieces and works with you to shape them to fit together to achieve your goals.