Do You Have a Medical Home?
By Dr. Rosemary Laird, Medical Director of Health First Aging Institute // May 31, 2012
If You Don’t Have A Primary Care Provider, Get One Now
No doubt you have heard that a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as the healthcare reform law or Obamacare, is expected by the end of June. While we await the outcome of that ruling I want to suggest a more critical reform here at home for those of you who need it. Do you have a primary care provider (PCP)?
Do you feel confident that you can contact that provider when you need him or her? In other words: Do you have a medical home?
Get a PCP That You Can Trust
A new concept, the medical home is being suggested as a way to improve health care. It boils down to this. In your medical home is a PCP you trust and can reliably contact when needed for ongoing chronic and acute care needs. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Some of you are set with reliable primary care and I encourage you to use it wisely. Start any search for medical care right there with your PCP. He or she is in the best position to help guide your care. If you, or someone you are caring for, doesn’t have a PCP, get one now.
If you already have need of a specialist for ongoing care you still should have a primary care provider for valuable preventive care and other medical needs that develop over time. Let’s get your own medical home in order, and no matter the reforms in Washington you will be set.
Helpful tips for a successful first visit with a new Primary Care Provider:
- Create a medical folder of important documents and keep it updated. It should contain an in-depth medical history, results of tests, updated medications, other doctor’s contact information, and copies of your living will and /or durable power of attorney.
- Call the physician’s office ahead of time for information such as office hours, who to contact in emergencies, and what to bring on your first visit. Try to arrive at least 15 minutes early to complete the necessary paperwork (insurance information, vital information, and past health history).
- Be as specific as you can about your health concerns. Expect the same honest communication from your physician. Ask questions if you don’t understand an explanation or medical term.
- Schedule appointments for the doctor’s least busy day and time.
- If possible, double up appointments; get an annual checkup in the fall and get your flu shot in the same visit.
- Before heading off to your visit, call to see if the doctor is running late.
- Whenever you’re given a treatment plan, be sure to ask your doctor questions. You need to understand exactly what medications you’re being prescribed, how they’ll help you, and any possible side effects.
- Ask if the doctor’s office allows online prescription refills.
- Ask a family member or friend to accompany you to your appointment if you feel you need help explaining your symptoms or remembering recommendations.
The medical home is a patient-centered model of care that replaces episodic care based on illness and patient complaints with coordinated, long-term care through a personal physician and an integrated healthcare team, and creates a dynamic framework for significantly raising the quality of care and improving patient health.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Rosemary Laird is the founding Medical Director of the Health First Aging Institute. The Aging Institute sponsors clinics for geriatric consultation, memory loss, and primary care, and provides support for caregivers. Dr. Laird received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine, residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago, and a Geriatric Fellowship at the University of Kansas. You may contact Dr. Laird at 321-727-9764 or log on to www.eldercare.health-first.org