Primary Benefits

June 01, 2013

Finding your “medical home” can boost your quality of life

Cliff Clavin and the Cheers gang were on to something. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. It’s no different at the doctor’s office.

Studies show that patients who establish a long-term relationship with a primary care provider (PCP) live healthier lives.

A survey by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports health-related research, shows that when adults have a medical home (a physician-led team that provides care for a patient over time), they have higher rates of screening for conditions such as high cholesterol levels and breast cancer, and they receive better care for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Do you have a medical home? Or are you “homeless,” popping into urgent care centers or the emergency department when illness or injury strikes? At Providence Health & Services, Southern California, our primary care doctors partner with you to keep you well.

The 1-2-3 About a PCP

A PCP, most often a family doctor or an internal medicine doctor, can be a trusted partner in your health for a long stretch of time—even a lifetime.

“By maintaining regular, scheduled visits, you’ll help ensure your medical conditions are controlled. You will have better overall satisfaction in your quality of life.” –Michael Sanchez, MD

Primary care physicians Michael Sanchez, MD, an internal medicine specialist affiliated with Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, and Crescenzo Pisano, MD, a primary care physician and medical director of Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro Recovery Center, discuss the advantages of primary care.

1. Personal touch. At its core, Dr. Pisano says, healthcare is still a personal interaction. “If you don’t have a provider who truly has a relationship with you, you’re making your healthcare more difficult.”

As we age, difficult discussions about embarrassing physical symptoms or feelings of depression are much easier to broach with a longtime physician. “People can look to their PCP as a resource of support, treatment and referral,” Dr. Sanchez says.

Dr. Pisano also credits Epic, Providence’s electronic health record system, with helping him stay connected with his patients. “I follow my hospitalized patients through Epic every day, just as if I’m there in the hospital,” he says.

2. Better preventive care. A relationship with your physician naturally leads to frequent conversations about healthy lifestyle, nutrition and physical activity sources, Dr. Pisano says. As a PCP who has been in practice for 31 years, he takes great pride in the “lost art” of teaching patients how to take care of themselves.

On a more global scale, the nation’s new healthcare reform law pushes PCPs to make sure patients are up-to-date with screenings. Many Providence-affiliated PCPs, including Drs. Sanchez and Pisano, have been doing this for decades. Regular screenings and preventive checks can find diabetes, heart disease or cancer at their earliest, most treatable stages. “By maintaining regular, scheduled visits, you’ll help ensure your medical conditions are controlled. You will have better overall satisfaction in your quality of life,” Dr. Sanchez says.

3. Help navigating the system. With medicine becoming ever more specialized, it’s essential to have a single physician who knows your health history, gets your test results and coordinates your prescriptions.

“We’re kind of like the ‘central clearinghouse,’ ” Dr. Sanchez says. “We make referrals to specialists when necessary. We verify patient medicines and ensure patients and caretakers understand how to use those medications.”

The PCP helps patients save money and time, Dr. Pisano says. “When you see many different doctors, it may be difficult to coordinate appropriate care. That can lead to unnecessary tests, unnecessary prescriptions and unnecessary headache and worry.”