There is nothing new or innovative about assigning members to primary care doctors. What is new, however, is the coronavirus and how it is making the need for a primary care doctor more apparent than ever before.
Here are the top three reasons to re-up efforts to get patients assigned to a primary care doctor — especially during the pandemic.
- Primary Care Providers Help Patients Boost Their Immunity
Overall health and immunity are intrinsically connected. Primary care doctors care for their patients’ overall health, and that includes encouraging behaviors that support a strong immune system, such as:
- Quitting Smoking
Primary care doctors can refer patients to smoking cessation programs, and in fact, patients are 1.6 times more likely to quit if they are advised to do so by their primary care doctor.
- Good Nutrition
Eating wholesome foods and maintaining a healthy weight contribute to a healthy immune system. Conversely, being overweight has been shown to be a risk factor for COVID-19. Doctors play a role in helping patients who are struggling with diet and nutrition by providing counsel, referring patients to nutritionists, or encouraging participation in programs that support healthy eating.
- Regular Exercise
Like nutrition, exercise plays a key role in weight management, and doctors are increasingly writing prescriptions for exercise to encourage patients to be active.
- Getting Quality Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t produce as many infection-fighting antibodies and cells. Coaching on good sleep practices can be helpful, and a referral to a mental health provider may be suggested if the problem is severe.
- Limiting Stress and Anxiety
In the early 1980s, researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine conducted research that showed a link between stress and immunity. Primary care doctors are often the first line of defense for screening patients and referring to mental and behavioral health providers.
- Vaccines and Immunizations
Primary care providers keep patients up to date on important preventive measures — like the flu shot, childhood immunizations, and, eventually, a coronavirus vaccine — that prevent the spread of illness.
2. Primary Care Doctors are the First Line of Defense Against Chronic Conditions
Primary care providers work to identify chronic conditions early, and then play an essential role to coordinate care for their patients and help them manage their conditions.
It is important right now:
According to the CDC, five chronic conditions are associated with a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
It is important all the time:
Six out of every ten adults have at least one chronic condition, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19 and putting them at greater general risk for morbidity and mortality.
Most chronic diseases can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices (like the ones listed above) and regular health screenings, putting the primary care provider in an important position to help patients prevent and manage these conditions.
3. Primary Care Doctors Make Care Personal
- They Answer Questions
Patients have a provider they can trust to answer their medical questions.
- They Know Their Patients
Primary care providers know their patients’ overall health and baseline, making it easier for them to diagnose health conditions.
- They Coordinate Care
Primary care doctors watch the overall health of patients and help coordinate care between specialists.
- They Make Referrals
Patients get the referrals they need to see specialists when necessary.
Every member deserves to have a primary care provider they can trust, and health plans play a key role in ensuring members are assigned to the right provider. Even during the pandemic, members can be assigned to providers and begin to establish the important doctor-patient relationship.