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Monday, March 1, 2010

Why should I care about Primary Care?

Do you take your kids to the doctor? "Yes.  I don't miss a visit.  I'm proud that my kids are up to date with their shots."

Do you take yourself to the doctor? "I'm healthy...why do I need a doctor?" (PS I don't have time and I don't have a doctor).

We look out for everyone's best interests.  We try to keep ourselves healthy.  We try to keep our kids healthy.  We mostly play by the rules.  But when everything is always fine, why should I see my doctor every year?  And what kind of doctor should I call "my doctor?"

Lets start with the players in Primary Care...

1.  Internists. Considered "specialists in adult health care".  Able to care for the simplest or most complex of medical diagnoses. Training is a mix between inpatient and outpatient care.  Internists may also see their patients in the hospital.  May sub specialize into various fields such as cardiology, gastroenterology etc.

2.  Family Practitioners Primary care physicians that provide care for patients of all ages.  Training for board certified family physicians is 3 years after graduation from medical school and tends to focus on the outpatient setting.  Includes obstetrical training.

3.  Pediatricians.   Specializing in health care for children.  Usually will provide care for patients up to the age of 18.

4.  Internal Medicine/Pediatrics.   (FYI, this is me.) Considered specialists in adults and specialists in children with the equivalent board certification of an Internist and Pediatrician.  Residency training after medical school is 4 years and training and certification allows us to provide the most specialized care for patients of all ages, newborn through geriatric.  Both inpatient and outpatient trained.  May also sub specialize if desired in any of the pediatric or adult domains.

So who should you consider "your doctor"?

Well, picking a doctor is intensely personal.  Referrals from reliable sources are important to start, but ultimately, you must be able to trust, connect and rely on this person.  This person is going to be your window to the health care system.  Below I have listed some things to pay attention to when selecting your doctor.

1.  They take your insurance.  If they don't, you'll fork over a pretty penny.

2.  Find out what hospitals they are affiliated with and make sure you are comfortable at that institution.  This is important because that will be the place that your doctor will send you for tests, for admission (if needed) and the doctor will usually choose their sub specialists from that hospital.  PS.  hospitals should not be chosen based on how pretty they are or how good the food is.  Remember if you are sick, the only thing that matters is the best medical care.

3.  Office issues.  Are the office staff personable and understanding?  Does the office seem to function well?  Do they take same day appointments for sick patients?  Do they have weekend or evening hours?

4.  Does your doctor make rounds at the hospital or do they use a hospitalist?  Which would you prefer?

5.  Do you feel comfortable talking with this doctor?  Do they listen to your concerns?  Do you feel like they answer your questions without rushing?  How will they communicate results to you?  What is the best way to reach the doctor if there is an emergency?  Who will cover for the doctor if they are unavailable?

There are many changes to come in health care.  But the foundation of good coordinated health care will remain with the the primary care physician.  So find one.  And see them at least once a year so they can get to know you and so you have someone to call if something goes wrong.

A new concept in medicine which is emerging is called the PATIENT CENTERED MEDICAL HOME. I could try to explain this, but this EXCELLENT VIDEO does a better job that I could ever do.  Hopefully, your doctor will start participating and you will soon see positive changes.

So, what are you waiting for....call and make an appointment!

 

 

 

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