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Who’s Quarterbacking Your Care?

 

Every successful football team relies on a good quarterback — someone who can see the field, call the plays and deliver the ball safely to a receiver or tailback to help their team keep moving down the field.

As health care has grown ever more specialized, many individuals find that they have a whole team of healthcare providers — each with a different specialty, or “playing a different position,” to continue the analogy — trying to help them move toward the goal line of better health. With a host of specialists and medical providers, patients need someone who helps them “quarterback” their care — especially when dealing with serious, lifelong health issues like heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and others.

In these instances, having a primary care provider — like a family practice or internal medicine specialist — is essential to helping you live a longer, more active life.

Primary care providers specialize in you — that is, they get to know you in ways other medical providers perhaps do not. Primary care providers are responsible for your overall care, looking at the big picture when it comes to your health and helping to determine if issues being treated by different specialists might be related, as well as providing a fundamental level of care for less-serious health issues that, untreated, could turn into something much worse. Indeed, research has demonstrated that individuals with a primary care provider have fewer emergency department visits and hospitalizations than those who have no place to turn for primary care.

By being the primary source for care, you and your primary care provider develop a relationship that allows you to discuss your health in depth and with a level of candor you might be uncomfortable discussing with other providers. For instance, if you’ve developed pelvic pain, signs of depression or other issues — but the only physician you see regularly is your cardiologist — you may not have a medical professional with whom you can discuss these issues. Your primary care provider is not only open to discussing these issues but may even ask you questions specifically about these issues and others.

Primary care providers also have the benefit of knowing how your health has changed over time and can work with you to make adjustments early when treatment and behavior change can be most effective and before more invasive or complicated treatments become necessary. It’s much better to prevent diabetes, after all, than to learn to manage it or to change your diet to lower your blood pressure before you must begin taking blood pressure medications. Seeing your primary care provider regularly for annual screenings makes this level of early intervention possible.

And if you do have a chronic health condition like those detailed above, you can benefit even more by choosing a primary care provider who’s part of a certified Patient-centered Medical Home practice.

Tanner Medical Group offers primary care practices throughout west Georgia and east Alabama, and a number of these (such as Tanner Primary Care at Mirror Lake) are certified as Patient-centered Medical Home practices. These practices are specifically designed to help allocate resources for patients who need frequent medical care, placing the patient at the center of a physician-led patient care team. This team includes a care coordinator — a staff member from the practice who works to help you schedule follow-up appointments, manages referrals to specialists and follows up to make sure you have the resources you need — such as medications, information and more — to best manage your condition. The care coordinator will help you schedule additional tests or screenings, call to check in and see if you have any questions and more.

​You can find a primary care provider on staff at Tanner Health System using the “Find a Doctor” feature on tanner.org and searching for family practice and internal medicine providers. You can also call Tanner’s free 24-hour physician referral line at 770-214-CARE to find a primary care provider near you.

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