Primary Care Providers Play Vital Role in Prevention and Maintenance of Chronic Health Conditions

Choosing the right physician early can help individuals navigate new, ongoing issues

DAYTON, Ohio (June 8, 2015) – The adage that tells someone not to fix what isn’t broken should never be applied to their health care.

Many individuals believe that an established relationship with a primary care provider isn’t necessary if they don’t have a chronic health condition. Melinda Ruff, MD, with Centerville Family Medicine, said this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“You don’t have to be sick to need a physician,” Dr. Ruff said. “It’s extremely important, for a person’s overall health, to have one physician they can go to who can follow all their health care needs.”

A primary care provider is one who helps coordinate a person’s general health care needs. They handle prevention issues, immunizations, routine lab testing as well as managing acute and chronic conditions. A primary care provider has traditionally been a physician, but has grown to include advanced practice providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Patients who do not have an established primary care provider may be seen by multiple physicians when they do have an acute problem, and in turn, run the risk of missing an underlying health issue, Dr. Ruff said.

“A patient may say, ‘Well, I went to this urgent care for a cough and then I went to this other provider when the cough didn’t go away,’” said Dr. Ruff, a family physician practicing with Premier HealthNet. “If that patient went to the same provider all along that physician may stop and say, “You know, this may not be just a cough. We may be looking at asthma or reflux.’ They are able to see the pattern and provide the continuity of care that is needed.”

The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC), estimates that Americans make an average of 1 billion visits each year to a physician’s office. Of those visits, more than half are made to a primary care physician. The most common complaint presented in each visit is a cough while the most frequently diagnosed chronic disease is essential hypertension, or high blood pressure with no underlying medical cause.

Establishing a relationship with a primary care provider is an important part of diagnosing a disease early or preventing it from ever developing. According to the CDC, disease prevention helps create healthier homes, workplaces, schools and communities. It helps Americans live longer, more and productive lives and reduces their overall healthcare costs, the CDC said. 

Finding the right primary care provider may seem like a challenge to some, but it doesn’t have to be. Dr. Ruff said most individuals have control over who they choose and can find the right fit by following several simple steps:

Consult your insurance network choices – Start with a provider who is in your insurance network. Insurance companies usually have searchable databases on their website. Patients can begin by looking at covered providers in close proximity to their home. Also determine what type of provider is important to you. A family physician, for instance, would be able to serve the entire family whereas an internal medicine doctor may only treat those over the age of 18.

Talk to trusted sources – Sometimes the best advice comes from those who understand you and your health situation. Friends and family can provide recommendations as well as specialists who have working relationships with primary care providers.

Check a doctor’s competency – Dr. Ruff encourages individuals to use trusted online resources such as the state’s licensing websites that can tell an individual if a doctor has an active medical license and if it has ever been suspended.

Get first-hand experience – Make an appointment to see the doctor. Find out information prior to arriving by asking the receptionist questions such as office hours, how call coverage is handled, what services are provided, and if electronic medical records are used. Time spent with the doctor should be used to determine if their personality and style create a comfort level that will make you want to return, Dr. Ruff said.

“I always tell my patients that you want to be with someone that you click with and who you feel like you can trust enough to share your information with,” Dr. Ruff said.

For more information on finding a primary care provider or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit:

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