Primary care is a family affair
Your relationships with loved ones are obviously important on a personal, emotional and social level. But they also play a vital role when it comes to your health. They’re the people who see you every day or at least often enough to take an interest in your day-to-day wellness. As more adult parents begin caring for their aging parents and as more beyond-Baby-Boomer couples are taking care of one another, more Americans are taking the role of caregiver for their loved ones.
One of the most important lessons Dr. Amar Bhati, a primary care doctor with The Christ Hospital Physicians, learned from his late father, who was an OB-GYN, was to build strong and lasting relationships not only with patients, but also with their families. “It’s very important to involve the family in care, especially with older patients who have chronic conditions,” Dr. Bhati says. “This can eventually translate to a more educated patient, as it helps them adhere to their plan of care and leads to an overall better quality of life.”
On the front lines
According to Dr. Bhati, there are three pillars upon which primary care is based: education and prevention; acute care and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses; and maintenance of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Because primary care doctors manage everything from a common cold to advanced diabetes and heart disease, having a good relationship with your doctor can be crucial.
“Primary care doctors are at the front lines of their patients’ health. They also serve as a “quarterback,” referring patients to specialists and coordinating the subsequent care,” Dr. Bhati says. “People who need specialty care are often likely to require more than one specialist. The primary care doctor is the person who leads everyone toward the betterment of the patient.”
Technology has created synergy among primary care doctors, specialists and pharmacists, and enables coordinated care to happen in real-time. Electronic medical records systems allow physicians to communicate and share test and imaging results with each other from across the hall or across town. It helps to cut down on mistakes, and allows doctors to monitor the most recent and pertinent information as it is entered into the system. “If I get a call from the emergency department saying a patient is there, I can begin monitoring their condition — such as their blood pressure and any lab work that’s being done — and provide continuity of care,” Dr. Bhati says. “I can pull up records on my phone, my tablet, and my computer.”
Regular visits matter
Emergency medical records are no substitution for in-person care and in fact, if your primary care doctor hasn’t seen you for a while, don’t be surprised if they follow up with you. “There are a lot of silent diseases out there, from heart disease to hypertension. So much of what we deal with is preventable. If we catch it early, you may not have to deal with serious health conditions when you get to middle age and older,” Dr. Bhati says.
Even if you are only in your 20s, 30s or 40s, Dr. Bhati recommends making it a habit to visit your doctor for annual or wellness exams, which include measurements for weight, height and blood pressure as well as blood tests and other routine health screenings.
If you’re due for a wellness visit with a primary care doctor, call 877.904.4YOU.