Why do we need Primary Care doctors when we have specialists? Does a Primary Care doctor improve our health outcome? Do primary care physicians save you money? Does it make life easier in any way?
The Importance of Primary Care Doctors
A Family Medicine doctor, Internal Medicine (Internist), or Pediatric (Pediatrician) doctor are all classic examples of Primary Care doctors.
Primary Care doctors have a broad knowledge base with less in-depth knowledge about specific medical conditions. If you require a thorough deep dive into Sjögren Syndrome, it’s best to be seen by a Rheumatologist.
But to manage the entirety of any chronic condition, a Primary Care physician is essential.
Going Directly to a Specialist
A specialist physician is a highly trained individual on a very narrow topic. Ask a Gastroenterologist about how to manage an ankle sprain; they may miss the subtleties of checking for ankle instability.
A Cardiologist may aggressively manage a patient’s cardiovascular risk when, in fact, conservative management may have sufficed.
This is why we often see patients getting unnecessary surgeries and tests; it’s not because the physicians are greedy or ill-intentioned but because, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Establishing a Long-Term Relationship
My handyman is effective because he knows my taste and we don’t have to negotiate too much on costs. We’ve been working together for years.
I’ve had the same dentist for a few years now, as well. She knows my habits, what I’m at risk for, and what suggestions I’ll heed and which I will likely ignore.
A long-term relationship is more effective because both parties have invested time and effort to make success a more likely outcome.
When patients see a new Primary Care doctor each time, or rarely they will get generic advice which won’t be bad, but it will not be effective.
Getting to know a patient and their nuances is what makes for an effective patient-doctor relationship.
Coordinating Long-term Care
The advantage to having a Primary Care doctor is that you have someone who knows how to utilize specialists best.
When you need to make important healthcare decisions, there is nothing like having someone whom you can trust. Someone who has gotten to know you over the years and knows what is important to you.
Coordinating long-term care often is complex due to financial issues, navigating logistics, making tens of unique decisions, and getting clashing opinions from different specialists.
Focusing on Prevention
A Primary Care Doctor can help with prevention. Few specialists will offer much input regarding disease prevention because it’s already a rather complicated field.
Disease prevention is a specialty on its own though few physicians are practicing preventative medicine purely. As one can imagine, there is little demand for it when the disease burden in our society is already so high.
If we can help prevent heart disease, however, we don’t have to treat it. Same with diabetes and hypertension or the other major killers such as cancer and dementia.
Tapping Into a Collective Experience
Cardiologists hang out with fellow Cardiologists and don’t refer to other specialties.
Primary Care doctors are in constant communication with various specialists to coordinate the care of their patients.
A Family Medicine doctor, for example, will have witnessed a patient who refused knee surgery versus someone who opted for surgery after an ACL tear. This collective experience is what you get to tap into when establishing care with a Primary Care doctor.