Lehigh County Health & Medicine Fall/Winter 2020 - 10

FEATURE

CONNECTING
WITH
PRIMARY
CARE:
Let's Switch the
Emphasis to
Prevention

Family medicine takes the frontline position
in forward-thinking, pro-active health care
By JOSEPH A. HABIG II, M.D., Family Medicine
Physician and Medical Director, Valley Preferred

U

.S. adults who have a primary care physician have 33 percent
lower health care costs and 19 percent lower odds of dying
than those who see only a specialist. As a nation, we would
save $67 billion each year if everybody used a primary care
provider as their usual source of care.*

The concept of primary care is one that's absolutely necessary for
any progressive vision of the future. This is evident even though
some people may associate primary care physicians (PCPs) with
the age-old notion of doctors who visited your house and discussed
your condition over a cup of tea. However, if we borrow the sense
of personal connection that was inherent in those past physician-patient relationships, and apply it to today's technology-driven
medical practice, we arrive at a more evolved version of informed,
compassionate, holistic patient care. This version is essential, as
people continue to value a sense of humanity in their care, and
physicians try to rediscover the joy of practicing medicine despite
their increasing administrative and technological responsibilities.
WHY IS PRIMARY CARE SO IMPORTANT?
There are a number of answers to that question. The best is
probably that seldom does an illness or medical condition exist
in a vacuum. In other words, the systems in the body and mind
are all connected and one can, and usually does, affect the others.
PCPs have the unique advantage of having studied all the systems
of the body, and, especially in recent years, have incorporated how
behavioral health comes into play in any given condition.
10 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | FALL / WINTER 2020

The current pandemic underscores this advantage. As reported
by the University of California San Francisco, " In late January,
when hospitals in the United States confirmed the presence of
the novel coronavirus, health workers knew to watch for precisely
three symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. But as the
number of infections climbed, the symptom list began to grow.
Some patients lost their sense of smell and taste. Some had nausea
or diarrhea. Some had arrhythmias, heart or other organ damage.
Some had headaches, blood clots, rashes, swelling, or strokes. Many
had no symptoms at all. "
This situation exemplifies the need for a physician whose knowledge extends beyond one specialty. It also speaks to a physician
who is close and familiar with his or her patients, has a long-term
relationship with them, and therefore knows when something is awry.
The pandemic contributed to significant health implications
because people did not seek medical care due to concerns of being
infected with coronavirus. More mental health issues, and alcohol
and substance abuse have occurred in the complex environment
of COVID-19. Due to the physician's generalized experience, he
or she can address a problem at its seemingly apparent source, and
also have the background to dig deeper for other consequences
and causes.
EARLY INTERCEPTION: THE ANNUAL WELLNESS VISIT
Another reason primary care is important is that the entire system



Lehigh County Health & Medicine Fall/Winter 2020

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https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/LehighCountyHealth_Medicine/Fall2017
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