The Value of Having a Primary Care Doctor

Do you want to live longer; enjoy better health; avoid unnecessary emergency room visits, hospitalizations and surgeries; and pay lower health care costs? I surmise that for nearly everyone, the answer is “yes.” Each of these goals can be attained through a relationship with a primary care doctor. Primary care doctors provide accessibility as your first contact with the health care system;accountability, addressing the vast majority of your health care needs; and coordination of careacross settings, integrating your acute and chronic needs and guiding access to focused specialty care when needed. They promote health and prevention, and strive to develop a sustained partnership and personal relationship with you.

What may seem like a myriad of roles and responsibilities are actually the basic tenets of a typical primary care practice. As an example, just last week in my family medicine office, I treated patients from two weeks of age to 98 years of age. I partnered with my patients to help control their chronic conditions, including diabetes, coronary artery disease, asthma, hypertension, obesity and depression. I saw patients with acute issues such as back pain, sinusitis, asthma exacerbations, shingles, swollen knees and urinary tract infections. I assisted a patient in deciding the most appropriate treatment option for her newly diagnosed breast cancer, and helped another patient and his family transition to hospice care. I drained an abscess and froze a wart. I directed patients to specialty care when appropriate and tried to choose the right specialist for each patient. And I performed annual wellness exams and well-child visits. Throughout, I encouraged healthy lifestyles and verified that my patients were up-to-date on immunizations and health screenings. Similar to many primary care practices, my patients and I are supported by a dedicated team of nurse practitioners, nurses and medical assistants.

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