By Mike DuBose and Surb Guram, MD
At your last doctor’s appointment, you likely spent about a fourth of the time actually speaking with your physician and the rest sitting in the waiting room and filling out paperwork, according to Harvard Medical School. With lowered profits due to changes in Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance payments, doctors are pressured to move patients through their practices faster. In fact, according to a USA Today article by Roni Caryn Rabin, “Some physicians who work for hospitals say they’ve been asked to see patients every 11 minutes.” If consumers are rushed through their visits, they’ll have less time to share critical symptoms and concerns, which doctors need to know to make accurate diagnoses and treatments.
Research indicates that patients can improve their medical outcomes, boost their quality of life, and lengthen their lifespans by playing a more active role in their own health and selecting experienced medical teams. However, the National Patient Safety Foundation noted that the majority of Americans “remain relatively uninformed and passive recipients of health care services and thus lack the confidence and skills needed to fully engage in their health care.” In fact, the Center for Advancing Health found that 61 percent of Americans don’t keep a record of their own medical history. Likewise, our research indicated that many people are too embarrassed or afraid of what their doctors may think to speak openly and honestly about health issues. However, hiding medical concerns can do more harm than good. Our bodies talk to us when something is wrong and it’s important to look for and document problem patterns and report them to your doctor. Unfortunately, many individuals ignore warning signs and delay consulting with physicians until there are major problems, when it may be too late to treat the condition that could lead to a disability, shortened lifespan, or even death.
When it comes to healthcare needs, individuals often choose convenient urgent care facilities, drugstore clinics, emergency rooms, or online doctors. Thus, they see different medical practitioners each time who will focus on a specific concern rather than consulting the same primary care doctor. However, consistently seeing one, trusted doctor who knows all of your medical history goes a long way in accurately preventing and solving health issues. If you have built relationships with certain physicians, you’ll be able to secure quicker appointments, pinpoint problems early on, or expedite referrals to specialists, if needed.
Finding the right primary care doctor requires advanced research. Visit your insurance company’s website and search for in-network, approved providers. Staying in the network of healthcare professionals and surgical centers can save you money and expedite insurance claims. Ask friends about professionals from your list of medical providers. Some websites, such as www.healthgrades.com, allow you to search for doctors and read patient reviews but be careful since many comments are outdated. We recommend that you choose an internist as your primary physician. These professionals undergo 3+ years of special study approved by the American Council for Graduate Medical Education, meaning that they have received advanced training and education beyond most general practitioners.
The Bottom Line: Having competent, experienced medical professionals in place before you need them can save your life and serve as your partner in preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases. Our next article will outline suggestions on how to successfully meet with your medical practitioners.
Mike DuBose has been an instructor for USC’s graduate school since 1985, when he began his family of companies, and is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for a free copy of his book and additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health articles written with Surb Guram, MD.
Surb Guram, MD is a board-certified internist, a partner with the SC Internal Medicine Associates in Irmo, SC, and has practiced internal medicine in the Midlands for the past 30 years.