Medical: 205-921-5556

Fax: 205-921-5595

2131 Military Street S Hamilton, AL 35570 View Location

Apr 20

Primary Care: So what if I don’t have a regular doctor. What’s the big deal?

Primary Care: So what if I don’t have a regular doctor. What’s the big deal?

Emergency rooms and Urgent Care facilities are labeled as such for a reason. Many people turn to the ER for the treatment of complaints that a primary care provider should have handled. When you visit a different doctor every time you feel bad, you will find that the new provider has no knowledge of your medical history or family history; no record of the medications you take on a daily basis. While there are wonderful benefits to having somewhere to turn when your regular provider is unavailable (after hours, emergencies), there are cues that your primary care provider might recognize as being peculiar and irregular as compared to your previous visits. Yet, these things may go unnoticed altogether by a brand new provider. A regular, routine relationship with one provider can have a wealth of benefits, in spite of the few draw backs that arise from time to time.

Let’s go on a journey… First, we will look at “Mrs. Hollis”. She has been to the ER 3 times over the last 6 months, periodically complaining of a toothache. Every time she goes, she gets an antibiotic to calm her toothache or abscess, and is asked to visit a dentist to repair or remove the tooth. Mrs. Hollis goes home, faithfully takes her antibiotics, and her tooth feels better. She does not visit the dentist to repair the tooth, because after all, “It doesn’t hurt anymore”. At least, not until next time it flares up. If she had a regular doctor, he might have been able to follow up with her to stress the importance of visiting the dentist right away.

Next, look at “Mr. Carlson”, who visits an urgent care for his persistent cough. Later, he visits a different urgent care when he begins to have more serious complications with his breathing. Though these symptoms seem to be fairly tame and easy to treat, what Mr. Carlson doesn’t know is that he is in the early stages of emphysema. Emphysema is a progressive lung disease that his primary care provider may easily recognize since a pattern is developing each time Mr. Carlson comes in. Knowing that he is a smoker, his primary care provider would explain how the emphysema is exacerbated by his smoking and that he needs to quit immediately, or it could significantly shorten his life expectancy. Instead, Mr. Carlson leaves the urgent care with another antibiotic and an inhaler. His emphysema goes undiagnosed. Routine visits with a primary care provider could mean a proper diagnosis and could keep his emphysema from progressing too quickly.

Last, let’s look at “Mr. Foster”. He has hyperlipidemia (or high cholesterol). He drops in to see a random doctor who diagnoses his problem and gives him a medication to help keep it under control. After taking this medication for 6 months, he runs out and calls the doctor’s office asking for a refill to be called in to his pharmacy. Without a visit, the prescription is called in. Sadly, Mr. Foster has been experiencing muscle aches for some time, but has not connected the dots that the muscle discomfort was caused by his statin medication. Higher doses of statin medications can, in some circumstances, cause rhabdomyolysis (a rare condition that causes muscle cells to break down). Over time this condition can have irreversible effects, and could seriously damage the kidney. If Mr. Foster were seeing a primary care provider, the doctor would check his kidney function routinely, and would ask how he is tolerating the medication before refilling his prescription. Upon learning about Mr. Foster’s muscle complaints, the doctor could decide if his dose needs to be adjusted, or if he needs to switch to a different medication.

Having a regular doctor means that someone is considering your overall health, and talking to you about your optimum, long-term goals. Your preventive health screenings help to catch things early while they are small, easily treated and inexpensive. Your doctor is able to “keep an eye” on you in between visits to specialists, to be sure that you are not prescribed conflicting medications and to help maintain the continuity of care between professionals. Think of it like this: You can be out in the sea on a boat all alone trying to chart your own course, or you can have a crew with you working to make sure you reach your destination.

In spite of the good reasons to find a regular doctor, some people would rather take their chances and play the odds with their health. There is a percentage of the patient population who prefer to see random providers. They don’t want address the concerns of losing weight, stopping smoking or changing their lifestyle. Some simply believe that they don’t need care until they are already sick. Others live their lives hoping that they will never have to face the consequences of their poor choices.

Even if you are rarely sick, it is good to have an annual wellness physical once a year to get a bird’s eye view of your overall health, comparing test results from year to year. This allows you to see where there may be an improvement or decline over time. Yearly lab results can give you the information necessary to make simple lifestyle changes before a problem occurs, or can be an indication to continue with improvements you’ve already made in the past.

I have included links below for other articles related to this topic that may be of interest to you:

Why You Need a Primary Care Doctor

The Case for Primary Care

No comments yet.

Add a comment