Make Primary Care a Priority in 2024

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Healthcare Network

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Posted on

Dec 16, 2023

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Florida - Southwest

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People with health insurance are generally expected by their insurance carriers to have a primary care physician. But having a primary care physician is essential for everyone, and it goes beyond just meeting the requirements of health insurance. Studies show they lower the cost of care, improve health outcomes and positively impact the overall health of the community.

A primary care physician (PCP) serves as the initial point of contact for non-emergency medical concerns. They establish the foundation for your overall health by familiarizing themselves with your individual needs and circumstances. This long-term relationship results in early detection and treatment of disease, chronic disease management and preventative care.

A PCP can be a family practitioner, generalist, internist, pediatrician, geriatrician, obstetrician and gynecologist as well as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant working with primary care physicians.

Study after study has shown that people who have a PCP experience extended lifespans, with reduced risks of mortality from conditions such as heart disease, cancer, or stroke. This is because PCPs play a crucial role in addressing minor illnesses and concerns at an early stage, preventing them from escalating into more serious conditions. Moreover, individuals with a PCP tend to incur lower healthcare costs, as these physicians actively monitor wellness and facilitate coordinated care. This is especially important for seniors, as those who receive regular, preventive care and have their health issues effectively managed are less prone to hospitalization or emergency room visits.

A PCP becomes your partner, sharing the responsibility for your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Since one in three seniors sees at least five doctors a year, a primary care doctor can help provide seamless, integrated care, managing appointments, prescriptions and providing a medical home base by coordinating fragmented care.

In addition, patients who have providers who take time to listen to their concerns are more satisfied with their health care experience and are more likely to take care of their health. Unfortunately, more than 50% of adults over 65 are not up to date on their recommended preventative services. Seniors who skip their annual check-ups are at a higher risk for medical conditions that a primary care doctor would have caught in time to treat.

Having a PCP means that patients are more likely to:

·         Fill prescriptions and have routine preventative care like flu shots and blood pressure screenings.

·         Receive cancer screenings, including colorectal cancer screening and mammography.

·         Spend less time in the hospital and less money on medical costs overall.

Still, about one-third of Americans do not have a PCP. If primary care is so good for us, why don’t we all have a PCP? Two of the barriers include lack of availability of doctors and lack of health insurance.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration designates nearly all of Southwest Florida as a “Medically Underserved Area,” meaning there is a shortage of primary care providers for the growing population.

Lack of health insurance has been shown to decrease the use of preventive and primary care. People without health insurance may delay care when they are ill or injured, and they are more likely to be hospitalized for chronic conditions.

In 1977, Healthcare Network began caring for migrant farmworkers and underserved populations in Immokalee who had difficulties accessing primary health care. Since then, it has grown to provide primary healthcare to men, women and children of all ages, helping the disenfranchised, underinsured, and uninsured of our communities, as well as those with insurance and resources who recognize the quality and comprehensiveness of care available.

Community Health Centers like Healthcare Network improve access to high quality primary care, while decreasing hospitalization rates and use of emergency departments in the states and counties that they serve.

If you are currently healthy and don’t have extensive medical needs, now is a great time to establish a relationship with a PCP who can get to know you and help you meet your health care goals. They will also be there when you need them. The relationship you build with your primary care doctor could be one of the most important you will ever have for your overall well-being.

 About the Author

Dr. Reinier Ramirez is a board-certified physician and the medical director of adult medicine for Healthcare Network. For information about primary care and other services or to make an appointment, call 239-658-300 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org. 

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