Seeing your family medicine doctor on a regular basis may be even better for your health than you thought. Research shows the comprehensive care they provide can save you money and keep you healthier.
The research, which appeared in the Annals of American Family Medicine, revealed people who take advantage of the wide range of services provided by family medicine doctors are less likely to end up in the hospital. They spend less money on health care too, possibly because their family doctor can help them avoid unnecessary or repetitive testing and costly procedures.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware how much their family doctor is trained to do. In fact, said Dr. Rex Dancel, MD, a family medicine doctor in Chapel Hill, “people are often confused about my role.”
A Family Medicine Doctor Is Your Care Coordinator
Dancel is trained to care for all generations. At Duke Primary Care Meadowmont, he treats lacerations and bruised knees, conducts breast exams and pap smears, and also helps people manage chronic concerns like diabetes and high blood pressure. “Family doctors are very thorough,” he said. “We look at multiple organ systems, rather than focus on one thing.”
When advanced care is needed, Dancel refers his patients to specialists but continues to coordinate their care. Using Duke’s electronic medical records system, he can see which tests are ordered and what medications his patients’ specialists prescribe. That’s important because some medicines may be good for one condition but exacerbate another.
Beta blockers, for example, which control high blood pressure, can worsen a patient’s depression, said Dr. Christina Beck, MD, who practices family medicine in Cary at Duke Primary Care Waverly Place. “The risk/benefit discussion is best provided by the primary care provider who has an established relationship with the patient,” she says.
That relationship can go a long way when it comes to making treatment decisions. Your doctor’s insight into who you are can help him or her counsel you on which treatment is best for you.
Message Your Doctor on Duke MyChart
There may be times when a specialist is better suited for your care than your family doctor. Often, making a phone call to your doctor’s office or sending a message using Duke’s secure patient portal, Duke MyChart, can help your doctor make that determination. It won’t help to send your doctor a message requesting a referral without explaining your problem, though. A better approach is to send questions and explain your health concerns. Your family doctor can then use that information to determine whether you should see her or a specialist first.
Keeping those lines of communication open also helps your family doctor maintain their role as head coach of your health care.