Relational Primary Care – When Your Doc Really Knows You

December 26, 2016

By Florin Selaru

Primary Care – Definition

A recent article on the KevinMD blog made me think. Is it clear to lay patients how to use healthcare? Do we all understand the value of relational primary care? Let’s first establish what is Primary Care. Primary Care is health care that can be provided by your family/primary care doc. What happens, though, when there is an objective need for a higher level of sub-specialty, say when a colonoscopy is needed? The primary care doc refers you to a secondary care specialist (such as a gastroenterologist). You need a tertiary care center when you are really sick (emergency) or when you need procedures that are complex (such as a transplant). The basis of your health understanding, however, is a good relationship with a primary care doctor. This relationship will allow your doc to know you, your limitations, and your illnesses. This is relational primary care.

A Specialist is Not Always Better

People may believe that a specialist is better. A specialist is better when the health issue is within her area of expertise. However, a specialist is not better at knowing your other medical problems. Ask yourself: who knows you best – your primary care doctor, or the gastroenterologist you are seeing for the first time? Who knows of the health of your family? Who worked with you on your blood pressure medications till the best regimen was found? That person knows you best. Your primary care doc is best informed to think about your new medical problem and guide your steps. Relational primary care is in contrast to transactional care, where you are provided with a service (say a colonoscopy) in exchange for a sum of money. Moreover, relational primary care is developing a relationship with your primary care doc.

Relational Primary Care – Go Ahead – Talk to Your Primary Care Doctor

The idea that you should see your primary care doc only when you need help is false. We do not practice medicine in this way. We like to know our patients. We invite our patients to call us, email us, text us with questions. In addition, we take time to listen. Our appointments are more than 8 minutes in length. As a matter of fact, we allocate as much time as needed to understand not only the medical problem but also contributing factors. So, go ahead, call us. Email us. Text us. We are here to help you when you need help. We are also here to get to know you, so we can help you best when you do need help.

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