A primary care doctor is a doctor you go to for every ache, pain, problem, or ailment. Having an educated and trained doctor in medical care to assist with health decisions, recommending specialists, and providing basic healthcare evaluations is key to your overall wellness.
Knowing which family doctor to select can be difficult and if you already have one, there are probably some aspects of their practice you don’t quite understand. A lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions exist regarding primary care offices and doctors.
So let’s cut right to it…
What Every Patient Ought to Know About Their Primary Care Doctor’s Office:
There’s Been A Shift in Power and Control
Most family doctors in primary care no longer have the power or control over how long each visit is, how many patients are observed, or what records have to be submitted. With constant pressure from insurance companies and federal regulations, doctors are left feeling overwhelmed with all of the red tape.
When you finally get into your appointment, do you notice your primary care physician staring at a computer? It's not uncommon for appointments to begin with no eye-contact and a round of rapid-fire questions that feel irrelevant and unengaging. Family doctors are required by the payer, usually an insurance company, to complete necessary claims for services rendered. They are interested in how you feel-- but sometimes, only in regards to completing the necessary checkboxes. A physician has to complete all of the questions required by the third party to be reimbursed and establish a cohesive record. As an extensive chore, the majority of the time is not spent with the patient, but instead on documentation, protocols, and algorithms.
Engaged in a constant battle, doctors try to get you the care you need by completing tests, scans, or treatments which are often denied by insurers. Insurance companies think doctors order tests and procedures too frequently.
In all of these instances, the insurance company or payer is in control. Physicians have little voice. With more patients being pushed through medical clinics and patients receiving less time with the doctor – everyone is left frustrated.
Doctors Are Losing Independence
Because doctors do not usually operate their own practice and report as an employee to a larger entity, primary care physicians have lost ownership and independence to practice how they want. Lacking vision due to the mundane tasks and laundry lists of protocol to abide by, they resort in hiring additional help like physician assistants or medical assistants to help lighten the load, answer telephones, and complete required paperwork. Simply trying to get through their days, working on a salaried income, a family doctor tries to endure and abide by all the rules to just keep practicing.
A family doctor should be the biggest advocate for patient healthcare, as they are the most visited and usually readily accessible. United together by working to bargain with insurance companies, primary physicians usually work for a large system like hospitals or private groups because it increases their chances of being heard and creating a united stand.
Every time you go to your physician, you might ask why it takes so long or why you have to wait around? Your doctor is most likely working for someone else and has relinquished the power to set their own schedule. The majority of primary care experts do not have access to their own scheduling system and there is little to no negotiation with overhead. This means their hands are tied as they are told to see more and more patients. A doctor is paid for how many procedures completed instead of focusing on building a positive patient-doctor relationship to provide higher quality care.
The Number of Administrators is Rising
Throughout the years, the number of family doctors in primary care has remained constant with little increase. However, the number of administrators continues to grow. There are more administrators, decreased reimbursements, and more patients to be seen since recent reform. This trend is unsustainable, as administrators impact the bottom line but do not add to the system financially.
Regardless of the demand for specialized doctors, there are fewer students selecting primary care as a specialty, mainly due to the financial discrepancies compared to emergency doctors and specialized surgeons. The debt-to-income ratio is not comparable. Additionally, administrators are trying to automate medicine, removing the art and clinical intuition.
Patient Don’t Always Take Priority
A physician’s perspective and expectation of going into medicine is often different than their reality once they start residency. With the sole desire and inspiration to help patients, doctors have completed countless hours and years of proficiency to specialize as a family doctor.
Completing a minimum of eleven years of education, a primary care doctor is limited on how they can practice medicine. Medical groups are becoming larger so it is difficult and rare to survive as a single entity.
The patient should be the primary focus and in control of their healthcare plan. Instead, they are told to trust the expert as they know best and how to help. Medical care should be accessible and effective, taking into consideration individual and holistic desires, including what you need and want. The Affordable Care Act recognizes and highlights the importance of doctor-patient relationships. Physicians have the skills, competence, and knowledge to diagnose or treat a patient whether it be in-person or through telemedicine services.
There’s An Alternative Solution to Healthcare Services
Healthcare options do not have to be through third parties, take a lot of time, and leave you feeling completely helpless – direct primary care (DPC) is changing the healthcare system. As a new approach, direct primary care provides simple payment options and allows you to expect higher quality care from your primary doctor. Giving you an alternative model to innovative healthcare practices and resources, DPC focuses on: increased access, general savings, overall wellness, and partnerships with your physician.
Let your family physician be in control, act independently, eliminate third-party systems, and prioritize patient health needs.
Elevated Health in Huntington Beach, California is a direct primary care clinic. We operate like a medical family that you can rely on whenever you need. A membership with us provides: unlimited access to your doctor, same-day and next-day scheduling, extended and relaxed visits, wholesale lab, medication, imaging and supplement costs, easy minor labs and procedures, and full access to your doctor via technology whenever and wherever you need it.
Our responsibility is to our patients and we want to help you receive the care and service you deserve. Learn more about DPC and change what you know about your primary care office.
About the Author
Matthew Abinante is a board-certified family physician providing direct primary care to patients of all ages. Offering excellent care, diagnosis, and techniques, he continually participates in educational opportunities to best serve his patients. Working in Huntington Beach, he analyzes common aches and pains, proposes innovative treatment plans, and provides specialized services for each individual patient.
After excelling for years, Matthew received his DO and MPH from Touro University in Vallejo, CA. Matthew completed his residency training at PIH Health Hospital in Downey, CA, where he became a board-certified and trusted family physician who values patient-doctor relationships and clear communication.