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Too Many Of Us See Too Little of Primary Care Doctors

Armen Hareyan's picture

Primary Care

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" has long been a popular phrase to encourage healthy eating and living habits. The reality is staying healthy is more complicated than this simple phrase and regular health checkups are vital for living a healthy and active life.

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over half of all medical care in the United States is conducted by medical specialists, surgical specialists and in hospital emergency departments. Many people wait until there is an emergency before they see a doctor, and research has shown that most people often need to be motivated to seek regular healthcare. According to the National Center of Health Statistics, people made more than 1 billion visits to doctors' offices, emergency departments and hospital outpatient departments in 2004 alone. Less than 50 percent of all medical care visits were to a primary care doctor.

''Primary care medicine is the most critically important care a patient can receive in managing common chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and asthma," said Dr. Betty Routledge, medical director of Westside Community Health Center, one of eight Wishard Health Services community health centers located throughout Indianapolis. "The likelihood that a patient will follow through with treatment recommendations is heavily influenced by the degree of familiarity, trust and the quality of the communication between a patient and his or her primary care physician."

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A primary care physician is the first contact of comprehensive care provided to people with a wide range of health concerns, and can encompass various medical specialties such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and other services.

In addition, Dr. Routledge stressed a primary care physician is vitally important in ensuring that routine health screening and preventative measures are available to a patient. An example of this would include the treatment of a diabetic patient who needs regular periodic eye exams, blood pressure monitoring and treatment, cholesterol management and kidney function monitoring, said Dr. Routledge.

Wishard has established a primary care network consisting of its Primary Care Center and eight Community Health Centers, conveniently located throughout Indianapolis. At these facilities Wishard offers an array of services including physical exams, prenatal care, social services, dental services and more.

To access these services, the public is encouraged to call Health Connection at Wishard, a telephone call center that operates 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The call center is also available to assist and provide helpful information to people with questions. Registered nurses who have access to a wide variety of up-to-date healthcare information evaluate people over the phone and connect them to the most appropriate level of care. Health Connection provides physician referrals and matches people with the most appropriate physician based on the patient's location, language and personal preference. Health Connection staff members also register people for classes and can inform them about the many services available at Wishard.

For more information on the services Wishard provides or to find a primary care physician, please call Health Connection at (317) 655-2255.