Our last post explained all the ways your primary care doctor can take care of you. Now we'll explain why having an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider (or PCP) matters. In short -- having a PCP results in better health outcomes and significant cost savings.
Primary care providers are trained to examine and address all aspects of a patient's health. From managing chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes to treating injuries and infections and everything in between, they're your one-stop shop. Because your PCP gets to know you and the intricacies of your medical history, they are in the best position to determine your health baseline. They are also going to know when something is "off" and needs to be looked at further.
If you see your PCP for regular check-ups (and everyone should!) they'll screen you for many common conditions, as well as conditions for which you are at increased risk. These screenings are key to early diagnosis of diseases and chronic conditions, which often results in more effective treatment options. U.S. adults who have a PCP have a 19% lower risk for premature death than those who do not.
The care coordination your primary care doctor provides is key to your overall wellness. If you need specialist care, the doctor typically focuses on one thing. They may not be aware of all the other aspects of your overall health, and they likely won't keep up with all the changes that occur. However, your PCP will monitor and follow up on everything, meaning they'll know if treatments interfere with one another, or if a new treatment for one condition is exacerbating another condition, or even causing new problems. And they'll help you figure out how to address those issues.
80-90% of health care needs can be taken care of in the primary care setting. However, many people rely on urgent care or emergency rooms for acute care (i.e. when they're sick or injured). Often, even when emergency services and/or hospitalizations are necessary, the need could have been mitigated or even eliminated with preventive care or effective management by a primary care doctor.
Along with the benefits of early diagnosis mentioned above, it's also cheaper to treat most diseases and chronic conditions when they're caught at an early stage. It is estimated that the U.S. could save $67 billion per year on health care costs if everyone had a PCP that they saw for regular (e.g. annual) check-ups.
Additionally, increasing primary care spending actually results in a decrease in total health care expenses. Emergency rooms, specialists, and hospitals are expensive. One study found that for every $1 increase in primary care spending, there was a savings of $13 for other healthcare services.
The Bottom Line
Most people have at least a vague idea that they should have a relationship with a PCP. Fewer realize the very real health and financial benefits that primary care provides. One of the most common complaints about healthcare is that it is expensive -- most of us can't afford to get sick. Insurance companies and corporate healthcare systems both play a role in limiting access to healthcare by making it expensive and difficult to obtain. At Remedy Health, we're working to fix that. Check out how we're making primary care accessible and affordable -- you can't afford not to.