Primary Care may have an identity problem. Ask ten people what “Primary Care” means, and you’ll likely get ten different answers. Even the healthcare industry itself can’t make up its mind, flip-flopping between roles such as “gatekeeper” or “generalist” and confusing the term with “internist.” Yet, the concept of Primary Care is a vital part of our healthcare system, offering patients acute treatments for common illnesses and injuries, preventative strategies to keep them safe and well, and long-term, ongoing management of chronic diseases. This article will look closely into why all this is important, what it entails, who provides it, and how you can get it.
It’s no wonder that patients, insurance companies, and even healthcare providers themselves are often confused about Primary Care. Even the philosophy of primary healthcare varies widely in definitions and interpretations. For example, primary care providers and offices have been called the “gatekeepers” of medicine, expected to control referrals to sub-specialists and thereby avoid unnecessary expenditures strictly. (By the way, we don’t agree with that. Sub-specialists shouldn’t be “guarded”, but instead should be thoughtfully utilized when their expertise and skills are needed to make a diagnosis or perform a procedure.)
Primary Care Expectations
A Primary Care practice, however, can and should serve as an entry point into the health care system, becoming the patient’s “medical home,” a well-charted and easy-to-access destination for a broad range of health care services (including providing outside referrals as needed). Like the classic television show Cheers, a great Primary Care practice should be a place “where everybody knows your name.”
At ZüpMed, we believe that “Primary” Care should be defined as both early for optimizing and maintaining your health and wellness and principal as we become your main source of medical care. We also believe that offering the best Primary Care requires three levels of service: Acute Care, providing same-day, on-demand access for life’s minor illnesses and boo-boos; Chronic Disease Management, with expert, ongoing interdisciplinary treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other similar problems; and, Preventive Health, working to identify opportunities to extend both the length and the quality of life.
A true Primary Care practice should be able to handle the same complaints as a good Urgent Care or Minor Medical clinic. Whether it’s a painful sore throat, concerns about COVID or flu, a cut on the hand while slicing tomatoes, or a bruised and bent pinky toe, your Primary Care office should be able to see you and treat you on the same day that you call. Unfortunately, in today’s world, the shortage of physicians trained in Primary Care may have you see a Nurse Practitioner, a Physician Assistant, or a Pharmacist. All of them may be referred to as “extenders” and work under the supervision of a physician.
Chronic Disease Management
The ZüpMed approach to Chronic Disease Management is through “interdisciplinary” practice. Our physicians, licensed providers, and Clinical Pharmacists work as a team, with additional guidance from our health partners in Nutrition, Physical Therapy, Naturopathy, and other medical specialties. Medications for chronic disease are prescribed or dispensed only after our clinical pharmacists’ recommendation or approval, who entirely use Pharmacogenomics, the study of how an individual’s genetic structure influences their response to medicines.
Ongoing Primary Care
Finally, Primary Care addresses the patients’ risk for injuries or diseases that might occur in the future. Weight management, smoking cessation, and using seat belts go hand-in-hand with monitoring cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. A Primary Care practitioner should be interested in getting to know the patient, including the individual and unique challenges we face, to help achieve and maintain optimal health and wellness.
You may ask if you need a Primary Care medical home if you are younger. That’s a reasonable question. To answer, let me share with you a personal experience:
I did a good part of my clinical training in London, England. Then, on a Monday morning, I checked in, completed the paperwork, and the Matron in charge handed me my dorm key. And then she added, in her perfect BBC accent, “And here’s your GP [General Practitioner] and their address.”
“But I have no medical problems,” I responded, “not to mention I’m an American.”
“Oh, right,” she said, dripping that wonderful British sarcasm, “so we aren’t planning on getting ill, are we?”
That lesson stuck! Even for someone planning only a temporary stay, having a number to call and a place to go keeps the pressure off the hospital emergency rooms. The GP had a head start in diagnosing and treating me when needed. That’s the essence of Primary Care, even for someone young and healthy.
ZupMed, Primary Care Provider in Memphis
Primary Care holds an important role in the healthcare system and can significantly contribute to the well-being of patients. A Primary Care approach focuses on patients’ immediate and ongoing needs, all the while looking for opportunities for improving health and preventing disease.
Our practice of Primary Care here at ZüpMed works to achieve the highest possible levels of health and well-being for each of our patients. Contact us to learn more about Primary Care and how you and your family can benefit.