What to Consider When Looking for a Primary Care Provider
Fewer Americans are seeking health care from primary care physicians (PCPs), with nearly a third of all men and close to one in five women reporting that they don’t have a relationship with a primary care provider. In a modern era where technology makes it easier than ever to find a medical professional with same-day availability or, in some cases, through the camera of your computer or smartphone, the idea of having one specific provider for your overall wellbeing may seem like a relic of the past.
Mohammed Ibrahim, M.D., a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Denton and at Texas Health Family Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, understands the struggle many modern consumers face all too well.
“Seeing a doctor for your personal medical care needs can be a time-consuming, inconvenient and anxiety-inducing task,” he says. “The upside to seeing the same provider every time is that you develop an ongoing relationship with one medical professional over time, which allows you to form a trusting and meaningful patient-doctor relationship. And in my practice, walk-ins are welcome for acute sick visits, so you can get the dual benefit of a quick, convenient visit with a doctor who already knows your entire medical history.”
If the thought of not having to sift through piles of new patient paperwork wasn’t enough of an incentive, Ibrahim adds that establishing a relationship with one physician allows for more personalized care, more conditions being treated in the same visit, quicker response times on medication refills and telephone calls, more comprehensive lab testing and screening, a decrease in ER visits and potentially lower overall out-of-pocket costs as well.
“Having a physician you can partner with allows you to have a more tailored health care experience personalized to your specific health care goals,” Ibrahim explains. “By keeping up with age-appropriate health screenings and preventive care, we can help catch health issues early on and prevent future illness.
“In addition to breast and colon cancer screening, a big part of my job is to assess my adult patients for obstructive coronary artery disease, which is the number one preventable cause of death worldwide. Having someone there to intervene when necessary, with therapeutic lifestyle changes and/or pharmacological therapy, can reduce cardiac morbidity and mortality.”
Another perk of having a primary care physician is their ability to connect you with a specialist if needed, which may also be required by your insurance. An added bonus is that they can also allow for a more efficient transfer of your medical history and care to the specialist, not only giving the specialist better insight into your care but also allowing an open channel of conversation between your primary physician and the specialist to allow for optimal care.
“When we refer you to a Texas Health specialist, we are able to see your referral/consult notes within the same electronic medical record system, and in most cases have immediate digital access to the same imaging and tests ordered by your specialists in real time,” Ibrahim adds. “We support an integrated model of medicine where all your multidisciplinary care is connected electronically under one roof, so to speak.”
While having an established relationship with a primary care provider saves you time, money and hassle, and offers you more precise care, navigating the primary care marketplace may seem more daunting than just filling out new patient paperwork. When there are primary care providers, family medicine physicians, internists and pediatricians, how can you make sense of who does what and who’s the best fit for your needs? Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Primary Care Physician – Can be a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner who provides acute care for common medical problems, chronic disease management, age- or risk-appropriate health screenings, preventative care and therapeutic lifestyle counseling, as well as referring patients to medical specialists when necessary.
- Family Medicine – Doctors whose scope of practice includes both children and adults of all ages. Similar to PCPs but may also include special services such as obstetrics, dermatology or orthopedics, as well as minor surgery.
- Pediatrician – Doctors who specialize in the care of newborns, infants, children and adolescents.
- Internist – Doctors who specialize in the care of adults of all ages with either complex or a wide range of medical conditions.
Once you’ve narrowed down what type of provider you need, Ibrahim adds that looking for a physician who shares your philosophy of care and respects your needs and concerns should be of the utmost importance.
“For example, my philosophy of care is to provide my patients with the best evidence-based medicine. What it means to serve my patients is to offer them quality, compassionate care in a respectful and dignified manner,” he explains. “My objective is to deliver up-to-date evidence-based clinical practice in order to bring about the best possible health outcome for each individual patient. Most importantly, you should choose a doctor who respects you and listens to your concerns; someone you can trust and feel comfortable with.”
While it may take some trial and error to find the best physician for you, when it comes down to it, one of the best ways to set yourself up for long-term health and wellness is to establish care with a primary care provider.
With primary care practices located across North Texas, we’re bound to have one near you, with some even offering Saturday appointments. To find the primary care provider who’s right for you, check out profiles and video introductions at TexasHealthFamilyCare.com