Happy New Year everyone. Yes, that’s right, we are in a new year and a new decade. It seems like it’s time to make new resolutions before we’ve had time to get started on the old ones. This is a good opportunity to think about being healthier and taking better care of ourselves. That is my own personal experience and that of most of my patients, but “taking better care of ourselves” can be hard today.
Having a primary care doctor could make that easier. It is reasonable to ask, “Why do I need a doctor if I’m not sick, and what is primary care anyway?”
I’ll start with the second half of that question. Primary care doctors can have a variety of specialties. Family Medicine doctors are trained to care for all patients from newborns to centenarians, no matter if the patient is a child, woman or man. Pediatricians care for children, usually up to age 18. Internal medicine specialists, or internists, care for adult men and women. Some consider obstetricians, psychiatrists and general surgeons to be part of the primary care team, as well.
Today, I want you to think about the doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners you might see in an office, rather than in the hospital. These are the clinicians who can help you keep that New Year’s resolution to take better care of yourself.
Primary care physicians work every day with the goal of keeping our patients healthy. Having a “medical home” with a family doctor, pediatrician or internist means you will develop a relationship over time with someone you can trust to be your advocate and to guide you through the complex world of the American health system. Costs continue to rise, and we often hear about medication recalls, new guidelines for blood pressure and conflicting guidance on when you should get a mammogram or whether a blood test for prostate cancer is a good idea. Having a primary care doctor means having someone who knows you and will help you wade through that conflicting information to make good health care decisions. That is part of our pledge to provide appropriate preventive care for each individual patient.
Your primary care doctor will also be there to diagnose and treat you when you get sick. They are trained to care for complex chronic illnesses with the goal of keeping you functioning at your best. Your doctor will connect you to sub-specialty care you might need to treat an acute severe illness such as a heart attack or cancer. They will be there to help you navigate through the complicated journey back to health. When you are better, they will be there to help you understand how your life will be different and what you can do to get back to normal.
Those of us who work in primary care are tied to the communities we serve. We work hard to help you stay healthy, manage chronic illness sensibly and take care of you when you get sick. So, if you made a resolution to take better care of yourself, remember you don’t have to do it alone. Find a primary care doctor and develop a life-long relationship for better health.
Happy New Year, with many blessings and good health in this new decade.