The beginning of a new year is a good time to examine the many relationships we have in our lives…and those we do no
According to a recent study based on data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 30 percent of men and 17 percent of women do not have a personal doctor or healthcare provider.
While not all relationships may be healthy, having an ongoing relationship with a physician who knows both your personal medical history and your family’s health background is one that certainly is.
“It’s always important to have a relationship with a primary care physician because you never know when you are going to need care,” explains Thomas Ledbetter, MD, an internal medicine physician on the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie medical staff. “Having a primary care physician who knows you and can treat both acute medical problems and provide wellness exams is important in keeping continuity for your overall health.”
Unfortunately, with the ability to simply schedule an appointment with a specialist as needed and all sorts of information for self- diagnosis available online, some people think a long-term relationship with a primary care physician is a thing of the past.
However, by being familiar with you and your medical history, primary care providers can recognize subtle changes in your health and intervene. They also can help you take ownership of your health and complete any screenings, vaccinations or tests that even healthy people need at certain points in their lives. For those with chronic conditions, they can devise and manage an ongoing treatment plan.
“Having a regular touch-base with your doctor is important both to review your past health experiences, and to go over what you may need to do to preserve your health,” says Dr. Ledbetter.”
If you have a family history of a certain disease, a primary care physician can explain what testing needs to be done and when.
Patients who are generally healthy and have no family history of serious health challenges may only need to see their primary care physician only once every few years until age 50 (though many companies now require annual wellness visits for health insurance purposes). After 50, Dr. Ledbetter says that annual visits with your physician should be part of the plan to maintain your health.
“Your primary care physician can provide a more detailed picture of your health and what you need to do based on your own medical history and status – as well as that of your family – and address any ongoing health concerns you may have,” he says.
FINDING DR. RIGHT
While just about every healthcare provider will tell you the Internet is not a good tool to self-diagnose symptoms, it can be a useful tool in choosing a primary care physician that fits your needs.
“Look up the physician’s credentials and where they were trained in terms of their medical school and residency program,” says Dr. Ledbetter.
Ratings from reputable sites that measure patient satisfaction and patient experience may also be taken into account. Other things patients may want to consider in choosing a primary care physician are:
- Special clinical interests (specific diseases or conditions)
- Gender of the physician (it’s ok to have a preference)
“You may need to schedule an initial appointment to talk about their philosophy and approach to patient care,” says Dr. Ledbetter. “But the most important thing is that you are comfortable talking with him or her about anything.”