7 Benefits of Primary Care for Seniors
Improving the quality of healthcare for older adults is a priority in primary care practices. Most often, older adults are managing multiple chronic conditions at a time. For this reason, it is important to improve the coordination of care, patient-provider communication, and quality of life for older adults. Primary care providers help accomplish this. Having a primary care provider proves to be an essential aspect of an older adult’s health.
1. Patient Education and Lifestyle Improvement
Primary care offers knowledge and education for patients to learn more about their health and their condition(s). It is important for patients to understand their condition and how their lifestyle can affect their health. Your primary care provider is a source of knowledge and counsel in understanding your chronic conditions, illnesses, or diseases.
Further, your provider will speak to you about your lifestyle and will give you recommendations for lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health. Experts at the Journal of American Geriatrics Society conducted a study which proved that patients who applied lifestyle changes recommended to them by their primary care provider improved their health significantly. In the study, those who reduced their alcohol consumption, as recommended by their provider, significantly improved their health outcomes. Your primary care provider can help educate you about your condition(s) and lifestyle habits in order to help you take control of your health.
2. Medication Management
Medication management helps patients to effectively reach their treatment goals. More than four in ten adults 65 years or older are prescribed 5 or more medications. This can lead to the risk of drug duplication, prescription of inappropriate medications, and adverse drug reactions.
Instead, you can utilize your primary care physician to provide counsel and expertise for medications prescribed to you by specialists. Information about your specialist(s) and medications prescribed to you are stored in your charts with your primary care provider. This creates a place where all of your medication prescriptions are documented in one place.
Having a long-standing relationship with a primary care provider also means they know your past history of medications prescribed by various specialists as well. This is beneficial because your primary care provider is able to look at your medication history and provide counsel based on your past experiences with various medications.
How does your provider know what medications have been prescribed to you by specialists?
It is the responsibility of the patient to communicate to the physician what current and past medications have been prescribed by specialists. Your primary care provider can only manage what they know about medications prescribed to you. Thus, a primary care physician is your counsel when it comes to medications prescribed to you in conjunction with other specialty doctors.
Your primary care provider helps you avoid medication errors, and thus, can drive better outcomes for later-stage conditions that require medication management. Medication management can also help reduce the cost of care due to the avoidance of medication errors.
Providers at Healthy Heart Clinics of America turn inaction into action by analyzing patient data to provide clinical insights and deliver medication recommendations for timely interventions.
3. Continuity of Care/Patient-Centered Care
What is continuity of care? Continuity of care is when your PCP is involved with managing your ongoing treatment for your health conditions over time. They take the lead in your care team in managing your health and are responsible for routinely evaluating your treatment plan to ensure you are receiving effective care.
Seeing the same provider throughout all of your health events helps your PCP provide you with the highest quality of care. Plus, there is solace in knowing you have a physician that has your back. The assurance and peace you have about the care you receive from your provider is an invaluable component in your health journey.
What is patient-centered care? A panel of experts from the Journal of American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) published an article defining patient-centered care. The experts state that patient-centered care…
“…means that individuals’ values and preferences are elicited and, once expressed, guide all aspects of their health care, supporting their realistic health and life goals.”The American Geriatrics Society Expert Panel on Person-Centered Care
True patient-centered care means the goals of disease management are focused on what the patient wants to achieve. The patient’s care plan is based on whatever the patient’s desired outcome is.
There are many essential components that go into patient-centered care. One of the most important components is the level of patient education that takes place in order for the patient to make fully informed decisions on their health. Once a treatment plan has been made, continued evaluation and reassessment of the patient’s health and progress on a regular basis by the primary care provider is used to analyze the effectiveness of the care plan.
Thus, the benefit of having a primary care provider is that you have a physician who is walking with you throughout your entire health process and making sure you are receiving adequate, quality treatment based on your health goals.
4. Early Detection and Prevention
The next benefit of having a primary care provider is the early detection and prevention of medical conditions. A major component in primary care is ensuring you receive the age and sex-appropriate screenings in a timely manner. These preventative measures are essential to detecting conditions early and making sure you are in great health. Because your primary care provider is knowledgeable about your family health history, you can also be advised for early screenings for serious conditions if necessary. Utilizing your primary care provider for preventative care can, in turn, keep you out of the hospital and prevent major health concerns from happening.
5. Reduced Treatment Costs of Healthcare
Frequent management of your health reduces the occurrence of crisis situations. A crisis situation is when your health has declined rapidly due to untreated conditions. For example, this can look like suffering from a heart attack due to prolonged, untreated high blood pressure.
Instead of seeking care for crisis situations, regular care management for medical conditions will save on the cost of healthcare. It is better to manage and treat high blood pressure before a heart attack occurs.
6. Chronic Care Management
What is chronic care management? Chronic care management (CCM) is the coordination and management of patient care that can occur between annual appointments. Older adults with two or more chronic conditions seek CCM from their primary care provider.
Every disease process moves at a different speed for each person. It is beneficial to have had a long-standing primary care provider who has known you and your health for a long period of time. Your PCP is someone who will understand the best course of treatment for chronic care management.
When it comes to formulating your care plan and treatment of chronic diseases, you want a primary care physician to be not only an expert on your condition but also an expert on you.
This means they know your lifestyle, your family medical history, your current and past medical history, your personality, and preferred treatment methods. Older, elderly adults who are transitioning to nursing home care or assisted-living care are encouraged to keep their long-standing primary care providers. Why? Because the patient’s long-standing primary care provider is the expert on the patient’s healthcare.
7. Access to Specialty Care
The concluding benefit of having a primary care provider is access to specialty care. Most often, specialists require a referral from your primary care provider. Thus, having a PCP grants you access to specialists when needed.
For example, let’s say you are going in to see your PCP for your annual wellness visit. During your visit, they run a standard A1C test for detecting diabetes and prediabetes. Your A1C levels come back as having Type 2 diabetes, and your primary care provider then refers you to an endocrinologist for further testing and treatment. Not only did having a primary care provider allow you to detect a condition early before your health declined but your PCP also provided access to specialty care.
At Healthy Heart Clinics, we have a staff of experienced and compassionate primary care providers. PCPs play an integral role in the health of older adults. It is best to find a primary care provider now and seek regular care instead of waiting until a decline in health. Again, receiving preventative care is better than receiving treatment for crisis situations. Not only does keeping up with your primary care visits reduce your overall healthcare costs, but it will also improve your health and catch conditions early before they become health problems later. If you do not have a primary care provider, make an appointment at one of our clinics near you.
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Written by the Healthy Heart Clinics’ editorial staff and reviewed by medical experts and advisors. These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about their individual health should consult their physician.
Written by Saragrace Keelin
Medically reviewed by Eduardo Aban RN RAC-CT
Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Tassin