Doctors now have more resources than they ever had before to provide patients with quality health care, including instant access to information on the internet and electronic health records. One thing that has not changed, however, is the importance of the relationship between you and your primary health care provider.
As your central health care provider, your primary care team:
- Provides preventive care and teaches healthy lifestyle choices
- Identifies and treats common medical conditions
- Assesses the urgency of a medical problem and directs you to the best place for care
- Makes referrals to medical specialists when necessary
- Maintains and monitors your health records
When you receive treatment in an emergency room or hospital, or see a specialist, your primary care team provides follow-up care and monitors your progress.
Your primary care doctor coordinates the care you receive from specialists, therapists, dietitians and other providers, making sure that treatments and medications complement each other. For example, someone who is taking a blood thinner should not be given a vitamin supplement containing vitamin K.
Your primary care team knows about local situations that might impact your health, such as a stomach flu making the rounds of local schools, or the oak pollen that is aggravating hay fever.
Do not wait until you are sick to meet your primary care provider for the first time. Check ups and wellness visits are an important component of quality health care. Your health care provider sets aside extra time for these visits, to talk about your family health history, your lifestyle, and your health care goals. During these visits, the health care team also does some basic health screenings for early signs of disease, and makes sure your immunizations are up to date.
Your primary care provider develops a relationship with you over time, becoming familiar with your family situation, your diet and exercise habits, and any previous medical episodes you might have experienced, such as an allergy, a surgery, or side effects from a medication. When you have an illness or a medical emergency, your primary care provider already knows you and is equipped to recommend the best care for your particular circumstances.
Your primary care center takes their relationship with you very seriously. Ask to see a copy of their patient handbook. It outlines the center's commitment to you, including:
- Answering or returning your phone calls in a timely manner, including nights and weekends
- Promptly explaining the results of any tests or screenings ordered for you
- Responding to your questions
- Following through on referrals to specialists
- Listening to your concerns
- Making sure you get services you need, with consideration for your health insurance coverage and your budget
- Maintaining a thorough and accurate medical record
- Respecting your privacy
Good communication with your primary care team is critical to quality health care. Your questions are important. Your team cannot do their job unless you report your symptoms and concerns. You should also tell them about anything that should go on your medical record, such as medical treatment that you received while on vacation in another country.
Your primary care center is your medical home. Your relationship with your primary care provider is the foundation for a successful health future!