You may have wondered why you would need a primary care provider? Isn’t it much easier to just stop by the Emergency Department or go to a walk-in care center? It can be convenient… but is it best?
Certainly for minor illness at night or on the weekend, it is the right choice. In fact, Lima Memorial Health System has Walk-In Care offices open from 8 in the morning until 8 in the evening weekdays and from 8 am until 2 pm on Saturdays. Of course, the Emergency Room is available 24/7 for true emergencies. However, these are not the best choices for routine care and management of chronic conditions.
You need your very own primary care provider. There is just something about that relationship that develops over time that is irreplaceable.
Let me tell you a story.
As her doctor for the last five years, I walked into the exam room and took one look at Mary and saw that things are not going well. She’d lost that sparkle in her eyes. Her skin looked pale. She moved slower than usual onto the exam table. She also arrived 10 minutes late for her appointment . That is not like the person I know.
These subtle changes would be missed by someone who has never met Mary. Is she developing depression or having memory loss, or does she have a hidden infection? I have her complete medical history. I remember when she had diverticulosis on colonoscopy. We had better not ignore that little tender spot when I touch the tummy. So, I order some tests and, sure enough, it is an infection from diverticulitis. This can be treated with oral antibiotics as an outpatient. Thank goodness it hasn’t gotten so bad yet that Mary needs to be admitted to the hospital or have surgery.
The most important quality to demand in your choice is the ability to communicate. Your provider needs to listen to you and genuinely care about your well being. You should expect a thorough history and physical examination. Part of your medical history includes your family history. We can be very much like our relatives. If you had a close family member with colon cancer at a young age, you need your colon cancer screen at a much younger age. You should have a discussion of preventative recommendations and decide together what is in your best interest and why that is. You should be educated about any chronic condition and sometimes be referred to the right specialist.
One person needs to coordinate all your medications and supplements to avoid interactions and side effects. One person needs to have a copy of any test or medical study or procedure that is done.
Preventing a problem or finding it when it is a small issue is my number one goal for you. There are a number of new and exciting ways to screen for life threatening conditions. Most of us know about mammograms and colon cancer screens, but did you know there is a better way to find lung cancer earlier? Lima Memorial Hospital has a test called a low dose CT scan that can find a tiny lung cancer before it has spread
We want to keep you well first and treat illness second. There are immunizations that reduce your risk for shingles and pneumonia and cervical cancer. There are medications that can help you stop smoking and lose weight. There is a test called a DEXA scan that can detect bone loss (osteoporosis) before you fall and break your hip. There is a lab test (for folks born between 1945 to 1965) that is necessary to detect hepatitis C. There is also a genetic blood test that can help us figure out which medicines work best for you specifically.
What an exciting time we live in! Start a relationship with a primary health care provider today. We want to help you focus on your overall well-being: physical, mental and emotional. Be as healthy as you can be.
Dr. Susan M. Kaufman is the Medical Director of Primary Care Services for Lima Memorial Physicians.