Primary Care: Our First Line of Defense

Imagine if the only place you could bring your child when she develops a fever or an ear infection, or needs a checkup or a refill for her asthma inhaler, was to a hospital emergency room. Or imagine you have multiple medical problems—diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, say—yet don’t have a regular doctor you can trust will make sure you’re getting all the right care you need to keep them under control.

In other words, imagine how difficult it would be to get all the care you and your family need to stay healthy without a primary care provider.

Whether a family physician, an internist, a pediatrician, or a nurse practitioner, primary care providers are often the first contact we have with the health care system. Practicing in private offices, community health centers, and hospitals, they diagnose and treat common illnesses and spot minor health problems before they become serious ones. They offer preventive services such as flu shots, cancer screening, and counseling on diet and smoking, and play an important role in helping to manage the care of patients with chronic health conditions.

When people don’t have access to a regular primary care provider, they end up in emergency rooms more often, and they’re admitted to hospitals more frequently. Without regular screening, a controllable condition like high cholesterol—which often can be kept in check with common drugs—can eventually lead to a life-threatening heart attack.

The evidence shows that good access to primary care can help us live longer, feel better, and avoid disability and long absences from work. In areas of the country where there are more primary care providers per person, death rates for cancer, heart disease, and stroke are lower and people are less likely to be hospitalized. Another big plus: health care costs are lower when people have a primary care provider overseeing their care and coordinating all the tests, procedures, and follow-up care.

Patient Example

Take, for example, the hypothetical case of Mr. W., an elderly man with diabetes who lives alone. Mr. W. has a primary care doctor but hasn’t seen her for close to a year. During that time, he should have been taking several medications to control his blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. He was also supposed to be monitoring his glucose on a daily basis.

But Mr. W. doesn’t always remember to take his pills—and, besides, the blood pressure drug makes his skin dry and itchy. He’s also not sure how to read the glucose meter and, already overweight, he struggles to maintain a healthy diet. The result: Mr. W. is now living with poorly controlled diabetes and progressive heart disease—a not uncommon outcome for someone in his situation. Eventually, he is rushed to the ER with a heart attack and hospitalized for a week afterward.

Typically it costs about $12,000 a year to cover an adult with diabetes whose condition is stable. But if the condition is uncontrolled, as is the case with Mr. W., a diabetic person can rack up expenses averaging $102,000 per year, with costs shouldered by a combination of the patient and his family, the insurance company, government programs like Medicare, and sometimes hospitals, if the patient is uninsured.

A solution

With a DPC practice like OneMD Direct Mr. W would have access to his doctor when needed.  He could call or text, get appointments and get his questions answered and have someone oversee his health. Primary care is needed.   Don’t miss out on this chance to have your health cared for.

 

Source: excerpt from http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/health-reform-and-you/primary-care-our-first-line-of-defense