4 Unexpected Benefits of Having a Primary Care Provider
About the Author
The idea of a family doctor that knows you personally is viewed by many people as a relic of the past. Fewer Americans are seeking healthcare from primary care physicians (PCPs), with nearly a third of all men and close to one in five women reporting that they don’t have any sort of relationship with a personal healthcare provider. These numbers are higher among millennials - America’s largest generation.
In a certain sense, it’s easy to see why these folks are opting out, as primary care doctors are busier and harder to access than ever before. Furthermore, the experience of long waits, hurried visits, and often being shuffled off to another provider has made the traditional PCP office visit less-than-satisfying for many.
The truth of the matter is that primary care is a critical component to health and wellbeing, and we have every reason to give patients better access to it. That’s a big part of why I’ve chosen to practice family medicine at Paladina Health, where we offer relationship-centered primary care. Here we have fewer patients, longer appointment times, and don’t leave patients in the waiting room flipping through months-old editions of People magazine. (Our patients spend an average of less than five minutes in the waiting room!)
The benefits of having a personal primary care provider are numerous, and I’ve outlined four of the big ones below. Maybe one or two of them will surprise you.
You’re not starting from scratch on every doctor visit
Tell me if you’ve found yourself in this situation before: you go to urgent care because you suspect you might need something stronger than Robitussin to kick that stubborn cough. You sift through piles of paperwork as you struggle to piece together the details of your medical history, your prescriptions past and present, the date of that ACL surgery you had in college, the name of that one medication (what was it?) that gave you a rash…Wouldn’t it be nice to skip over all of this and get straight to the care you need?
Enter the beauty of having an established relationship with a PCP who knows you. He or she has already learned the details of your medical history, your health goals, and your concerns. That way, when you need care, you can see someone who you’ve already got a trusted relationship with. You can skip repeating your medical history and get right to what matters.
Primary care can save you money
Healthcare in our country is expensive, and costs have been trending upward year after year for some time. However, research has shown that patients who regularly see a primary care doctor have lower overall healthcare costs than those without a go-to physician. While it might seem counterintuitive that going to the doctor more frequently leads to spending fewer dollars, there are a several reasons why this is true.
First, a primary care physician will generally charge less than an urgent care clinic or a specialist. And they will almost certainly be cheaper than a visit to the emergency room for something that could’ve been handled by the doctor who knows you (P.S. – an ER visit sets a patient back over $1000 on average).
What’s more, an ongoing relationship with a PCP that knows and understands the nuances of your health means that problems can be caught and treated early before they grow into expensive health crises.
Primary care extends beyond the walls of the doctor’s office
In the on-demand age of Uber, Amazon, and groceries delivered to your doorstep, healthcare companies are innovating to meet people’s demand for convenient access to their healthcare providers. Telemedicine – a term referring to healthcare delivered over the phone and/or the internet – has grown exponentially over the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down.
For the average patient, this often means that establishing care with a PCP opens up alternative channels of getting the care they need outside of an office visit. At Paladina Health, our providers are available 24/7 for urgent needs, giving our members convenient access as well as peace of mind.
Once we’ve established care with a patient and know them personally, it may make sense to handle certain issues or concerns by email or phone. Telemedicine is much more easily and safely delivered in the context of an already-established trusting relationship between a patient and their PCP.
If you need a specialist, we’ll refer you to the right one
There may be certain situations in which your clinical care requires the consultation of a specialized provider. In this case, a dedicated PCP will know your unique situation, your history, and even what kind of physician personalities might best suit your communication style. This can ultimately save you time and money while ensuring that you receive the best available care.
Navigating the world of specialists and subspecialists can be an overwhelming task, to say the least. A quick Google search of “cardiologist” followed by the name of your city will undoubtedly produce hundreds (or thousands) of search results, many of which are paid advertisements. How do you wade through the noise to find a trustworthy doctor that’s right for you?
Your PCP can serve as a trusted advisor, helping you navigate the fragmented healthcare system, being sure your care is coordinated and personal. A PCP will also help you interpret and decipher conflicting and potentially contradictory treatments and recommendations.
The bottom line
When it comes down to it, one of the best ways to set yourself up for long-term health and wellness is to establish care with a primary care provider. Sure, I might be a little bit (okay, a lot) biased, but the data is there that shows this to be true.
With healthcare getting more expensive and doctors harder to reach than ever before, companies like Paladina Health are pioneering new ways of delivering primary care to grant patients unparalleled access to their physician. In turn, this gives the physician the opportunity to really know the people he or she cares for, resulting in better outcomes, lower costs, and more satisfied patients.
If you’re eligible for membership but have yet to enroll, or you’ve signed up but haven’t been in to see us yet, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to schedule your first appointment today. We’d love the chance to partner with you in the pursuit of better health while exceeding your expectations of what primary care can be.