Originally published in The Tennessean, January 2019
At the start of a new year, it’s easy to focus on the “new year, new you” concept and throw yourself into unrealistic diet and exercise resolutions. And it’s as just as easy to let those resolutions fall by the wayside, no matter how committed you may be for the first few weeks of 2019.
While diet and exercise are crucial parts of better health, one of the best ways to commit to your health and well-being is to establish or re-establish a relationship with a primary care provider, or PCP.
Convenience in care
A PCP can be a “one-stop shop” for your health, or a point person to coordinate all your care needs. PCPs treat most common, non-emergency medical conditions. If a medical condition arises that requires more specific medical expertise, your PCP can advise you as to the urgency of the situation and refer you to a specialist for treatment. And if necessary, your PCP can communicate directly with a specialist before, during and after your care to maintain the point person role.
When I was a practicing physician, I wanted to build a relationship and create a health history with my patients. And this is overwhelmingly true of the practitioners in our BlueCross networks.
PCPs are committed to people – they want to know you and where you may have struggled in the past, so they can help you manage your health conditions, and recommend and easily schedule routine preventive health screenings.
This relationship also allows for a more honest, open and comfortable dialogue about your health goals, and can help lead to a longer, healthier life.
A model move
Many of today’s PCPs are part of a movement toward more value-based care, which includes the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model. A philosophy rather than a physical place, the PCMH focuses on care that’s comprehensive, accessible and coordinated – areas where your PCP plays a vital role.
BlueCross supports this model, providing data integration for more collaborative care and on-site care coordinators at many practices. Care coordinators in particular provide an additional level of support in the communication between PCPs, medical specialists and patients. More than 330,000 BlueCross members are served by the 1,770 network providers in our PCMH program.
Make a plan
Since your relationship with a PCP should be long-term, it’s important to find the right PCP for you. Start by asking trusted friends and loved ones whom they see and would recommend.
It’s also important to ensure that any PCP candidate you consider is part of your insurance plan’s provider network. BlueCross, like other insurers, has a tool on our website that allows you to enter a provider’s name to check their network status, location, hours and even feedback from patients. When scheduling your appointment, ask if the provider is part of a PCMH program.
At your first visit, ask the PCP how they prefer to partner with their patients on their immediate health needs and their approach to preventive health. Note their communication style to help you engage in productive conversations. And on a practical level, are their office hours convenient to your schedule, and is the office staff respectful and helpful?
Insurers and providers alike try to make the process as simple as possible, but remember that all relationships begin with baby steps. In the case of finding a PCP, it starts with a little research, then continues with scheduling that first appointment. And if you commit to taking one step at a time for your health, you’ll find this resolution may be one that sticks.