Television series hits, such as Grey’s Anatomy and House, MD, have made the world of medicine more enticing than ever before. In these shows, the cast of characters consists of different medical specialists in the same hospital coming together to save the lives of patients. Due to the focus on specialists in popular culture, pursuing medical specialisations has become more prestigious for med students and practitioners.
Unfortunately, this has led to the neglect of an important field of medicine: primary care. Colin West, a professor of medicine and primary care doctor at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, who has researched the economics of primary care, said the preference for primary care careers had gone down to less than 20% from 50% in the ‘90s.
Although specialists are essential in diagnosing and treating specific ailments, a general practitioner (GP) – another name for a primary care physician – is the first medical professional a patient consults regarding any health concern. Many GPs act as private physicians and have a close relationship with their patients. GPs in large cities, such as Birmingham in the UK, maintain offices in hospitals or urgent care clinics to be accessible to their patients and the general population.
Many individuals do not realise that primary care physicians are as crucial to public health as specialists. Here are three reasons.
They give you better access to health services.
Primary care is the best way to improve access to health services, given that consulting a primary care doctor is quite straightforward and simple to do. In contrast, seeking a specialist requires specific knowledge of the medical field to figure out whom to consult.
Primary care doctors are the ones best equipped to reach out to the public and educate them on how to live a healthy life. Furthermore, a higher number of primary healthcare doctors can reduce the total spending on health, since the resources required are much lower than that of specialist care, yet they address fundamental health concerns.
They have a broader view of your health.
A check-up or consultation with a primary care doctor usually involves a full body examination. It allows the doctor to get an overview of your health status and make recommendations on how to improve your health. If a problem is spotted, a GP can refer you to a specialist to get a closer look at the problem. In contrast, specialists usually focus on just the problem area and may not see your overall health.
It is also easier to contact a primary care physician for any slight discomfort than head to the emergency room, which prioritises emergency cases, or a specialist physician’s office, which may require an appointment.
They know you best.
If you have a family physician or a regular GP, you would feel more comfortable being in safe hands or dealing with someone you trust. They are more likely to get a correct diagnosis of your health problem because they have your medical records.
If you go to the same GP regularly for checkups, you will eventually feel comfortable opening up on issues or developments regarding your health. Your GP has a comprehensive knowledge of your health history and knows the exact treatments you need or that will work for you.
Better access to health services, a broader view of your health status, and more excellent knowledge of your medical history – these are just a few of the reasons general medical practitioners are as crucial as specialists are. Do not let Dr Gregory House and Meredith Grey fool you into believing GPs are second-class doctors.