Why primary care physicians are so important
Consolidation provides a better understanding of your overall health.
As the chill of winter settles across Oklahoma, some might be planning annual visits to their primary care physician to ward off the season’s ailments and illnesses.
Jeffrey Galles, D.O., medical director of Utica Park Clinic, understands the importance of consistent office visits to a PCP, not just to maintain health season to season, but rather year over year.
“Having continuity with one provider ensures safer care and less redundancy in testing,” Galles says. “PCPs generally want to maintain a record of all care, whether provided by specialists or other types of providers. This consolidated record provides a better understanding of your overall health.”
Whether a person needs to have an established PCP to be covered by health insurance varies, according to Galles. “Having a PCP is not required to have health insurance, though some health plans, like Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), will require you to have a PCP,” he says.
That said, if a person doesn’t have a PCP and is in the process of choosing a provider, Galles says people should consider the type of treatment needed.
“A PCP can be a pediatrician, a family medicine doctor, an internist or an OB-GYN provider,” he says. “Each specialty provides care for a different population of patients based on their needs. Very often, family medicine providers will provide care from birth to death.”
However, the search for a PCP might prove to be more challenging than expected, especially for people who live in rural areas. The shortage of PCPs is a nationwide concern, but Oklahoma has one of the lowest numbers of PCPs per capita in the United States, according to the United Health Foundation. The state also struggles with distribution of PCPs, according to Galles.
“Our rural communities have a much greater problem with access to PCPs,” he says. “Many practices have begun to enhance their services by employing advanced practice providers (such as) physician assistants and advanced-practice registered nurses. These professionals are able to provide excellent medical care while working directly with the physicians in their practice.”
At the end of the day, Galles stresses the importance of regular office visits to a PCP, which results in patients having better health outcomes at a lower cost over the years.
“It is important to have a primary care physician because having an established PCP relationship ultimately will keep you healthier, and do so at a lower cost,” Galles says.
Galles’ tips for choosing a PCP
“Whether or not the physician is contracted with a patient’s insurance is typically the first consideration,” says Jeffrey Galles, D.O.
Make sure your PCP is easily accessible. “A convenient location is also important,” he says.
“Consider the services available in the PCP’s office, which may include laboratory, X-ray, extended hours and other offerings, all of which are important,” Galles says. “One new service in some practices is the presence of nurse care coordinators, social service personnel and nutrition specialists. Some practices may offer these services to assist more complex patients with ongoing health issues.”
4. Understanding EMRs
Knowing which electronic medical records (EMRs) the practice uses has become increasingly important. “A robust electronic medical record can facilitate medical record transfers from other medical organizations,” Galles says. “Medical record platforms allow patients to interact directly with their own records and this improves the quality of care they receive.”