This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Surviving Health Emergencies and Obtaining the Best Care
We all want to be prepared to survive any health emergency and get the best care to see us through any eventualities. One way to ensure a timely diagnosis is to schedule regular visits with a primary care physician. Those medical professionals can help steer patients in the right direction for any medical need or concern.
Do You Have a Primary Care Physician?
Today, too many Americans lack a primary care doctor and rely on frequent visits to the emergency room for both non-emergency and emergency healthcare. Developing an ongoing doctor-patient relationship with a physician who can diagnose issues and then provide direct care or refer you to a specialist for treatment can be essential to receiving timely healing. This rarely happens through emergency room visits.
An April 2015 Mayo Clinic article entitled “The Importance of a Primary Care Provider” explains the following:
“…[T]he importance of a primary care provider extends beyond his or her ability to cover myriad issues. Establishing care with a primary care provider affords you consistency and efficiency on a number of levels. Knowing who you are is one thing, but knowing the intricacies of your health and wellness is another…A primary care provider’s goal is to deliver the care that’s right for you — not employ a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Developing an ongoing doctor-patient relationship is essential to good health.
Slipping Through the Cracks
Nevertheless, many people lack insurance and regular checkups because of the associated costs. Some slip through the cracks because they have too much income to qualify for Medicaid, yet too little income to purchase insurance for themselves. Others with employer-based insurance may still lack the ability to pay co-pays or deductibles.
Because they are enrolled in a plan yet can’t afford treatment, they lack a physician’s oversight. These people don’t receive quick diagnoses or, ultimately, timely treatment along with continued monitoring and follow-up care. In spite of the costs, following up with a doctor who knows you may be the best avenue to ensure timely treatment.
Delayed Diagnosis Leads to Tragedy
I had the opportunity to meet a co-worker who did not have a primary care doctor. She had become accustomed to visiting emergency rooms for non-emergency reasons. When suddenly experiencing acute pain, she went from emergency room to emergency room and was discharged without a diagnosis from all but the last.
Delayed lab tests and a deferred diagnosis led to delayed treatment for the Stage 4 metastatic cancer for which she was ultimately diagnosed. The resulting lack of timely care led to the advanced stage of the cancer, a point at which insurance companies often deny coverage. Such a delay can often lead to death or more extreme and invasive treatments.
Emergency Rooms are Not the Answer
She is not alone. According to a March 2013 article published at Physicians Practice, that cited Centers for Disease Control statistics, about 80% of adults seeking ER care do so because they lack access to other healthcare. Author David Doyle wrote that “For years, uninsured patients have flooded hospital emergency departments seeking relief for common earaches, chronic disease management, and other non-urgent health issues. Many of these patients feel they have no other place to go, and some have never gone anywhere else to receive healthcare.”
What’s more, when you do get diagnosed, randomly choosing a doctor from the emergency room as your specialist may not always be the best choice for your particular needs. According to a case report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, studies have shown a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care has increased the effectiveness of the resulting outcomes. For those who have been diagnosed with cancer, choosing a team of doctors who implement such a multidisciplinary technique may be the better option.
Be an Advocate
The key is to advocate for yourself and loved ones. Take a stand. If you, a friend, or a relative are diagnosed, never let third parties decide your fate. Seek a second opinion and find the qualified specialists who can tailor the treatment for our needs. And most importantly, find a primary care physician who can get to know you on a regular basis and help you avoid complications further down the road.