Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Six Reasons You Need a Primary Care Provider

I was fortunate enough to have lunch with a Physician's Assistant at The Write Stuff conference in Bethlehem, PA in early April. We had the opportunity to chat about her job and this blog and we made a connection. In addition to being a PA, Rachel Berros is a writer. Please check out her website at and follow her on Twitter @berrosrachel. Rachel graciously agreed to write a guest post for me about why it is important to have a primary care doctor or physician's assistant. If you're one of the many who believes it's not necessary, I encourage you to read on.

Image courtesy of George Hodan
As a young, healthy person interested in natural medicine, it is sometimes hard to see the need for a primary care provider.  This is doubly difficult when following a healthy lifestyle and learning home remedies for common ailments.  All one needs is a local urgent (UC) or emergent care department (ER) for those rare times home remedies are not enough, such as broken ankles or severe lacerations, right?  Wrong.

Let me give you five reasons why.

  • Urgent and emergent care centers care for ruling out life-threatening illness and treating short term issues, not your long-term health goals. They fix the urgent/emergent issue and then recommend follow-up with either a specialist or primary care provider. If home remedies are not sufficient, then having someone familiar with your health goals is vital. 
  • Commonly—mistakenly or not—clinicians believe patients are being seen for answers and solutions for their ailments.  Medical providers use medications to give those solutions.  If you prefer to explore alternative treatments such as physical therapy, medically directed diet changes, or other life-style adjustments, then the common ER and Urgent care provider will be limited in their ability to help you. 
  • You can set long-term health goals and save yourself time and frustration.  It’s common to see a different clinician each time you go to an ER or UC, which will require time and effort to have them understand your beliefs and desires.  And almost no ER or UC clinician will discuss long term goals with you.  But by having a single primary provider follow your progress, you can get regular recommendations to reach your goals. 
  • You can discuss and request more rarely performed studies.  If you come in to an ER and complain of symptoms of long-term heavy metal exposure, most clinicians will not test you for it unless you have very obvious physical changes.  Minor and vague complaints will not be investigated past ruling out immediately life-threatening conditions.  A chronic provider will be able to tease out many other less likely options, and order those more unique studies, such as heavy metal and vitamin D levels.    
  • You can treat pain your way.  Acute pain (lasting less than two weeks) will be evaluated and if a cause is found, it will be treated.  If no specific reason is discovered, then a plan for follow-up and a small supply of pain medication may be provided.  Back pain can be challenging as it is rare to get a definitive diagnosis during an ER or UC visit.  A primary provider can order appropriate testing and review the results with you while working with you on your preferred means of pain control.  Chronic pain should always be managed by a primary care or pain management specialist, not the ER or UC. 
  • Cost.  Simply put, everything in the ER will cost more than it would through a primary care office.

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