Primary Care Q&A: Here’s Why It’s Vital to See Your Doctor -- Even If You’re Healthy

Want to take control of your health in 2021? A good place to start is a visit with a primary care physician. In a 10-year study, researchers found that greater access to primary care was directly related to a longer life expectancy.

Patients who make regular visits with their primary care doctor are more likely to stay up-to-date on preventive care, and better manage chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.

“In the past the philosophy has been, ‘I’ll go see my doctor when I’m sick.’ And now we actually say, ‘We want you to see your doctor when you’re healthy to help keep you healthy, not wait for a problem,’” says Jonathan Fialkow, M.D., chief of cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute and chief population health officer for Baptist Health South Florida.

Dr. Fialkow hosted a Resource Live discussion on the essential role played by primary care doctors, with guest Kamaljit Kaur, M.D. a primary care physician with Baptist Health South Florida. Highlights of their conversation are in the Q&A below.

Dr. Kaur: “As much as we want to do telemedicine — and not only for their convenience, but to help reduce risk of transmission and contracting the virus — there are times when we need to see them in person, such as if they’re having significant respiratory or cardiac complaints or even gastrointestinal symptoms, or sometimes even if they have a rash and unfortunately the video quality isn’t great. So instead of continuing the visit over telemedicine, bringing them into the office for a thorough evaluation is more appropriate.”

Dr. Fialkow: “Let’s talk about the importance of a primary care doctor relationship from a continuity of care standpoint. What do people get in that relationship that would be missed otherwise by using ad hoc (health services) like urgent cares?”

Dr. Kaur: “I think I can best describe it by referring to that old saying that the best treatment is prevention. Most of the conditions and problems that arise in health care are preventable either by simple means like a healthy diet, healthy exercise, routine blood tests and routine screenings. If we do those as indicated, then a lot of times we can prevent those diseases and those ad hoc visits to urgent care or to the emergency room, which sometimes not only are unnecessary, but can also be very expensive for the patient as well.”

Dr. Fialkow: “Let’s talk about chronic disease management, things like diabetes and hypertension, and let’s also pull in COVID a little bit. There are a lot of reports that these chronic conditions make a person more likely to have a bad course if they contract COVID. Is this something that you’re bringing into your conversations with your patients?”

Dr. Kaur: “One of the first and foremost things that we like to advise our patients is that no matter what the chronic condition is, especially if you’re taking medications for it and you’re requiring routine blood work to monitor the stability of the condition, it’s important to make sure that it is well controlled so that if you do contract the coronavirus or even the flu virus, your system is optimized. It’s optimized and ready to fight that infection. We encourage our patients to please continue connecting with us. And as we mentioned, telemedicine is a great way to do it. It’s convenient. And we can do it as often as the patient likes and make sure that we’re both going in the right direction.”

Dr. Fialkow: “What should people know about the precautions taken to keep them protected in our facilities?” 

Dr. Kaur: “We’ve taken every protocol set forth by the CDC and Florida Department of Health. At this point in time, nine months later, we’re pretty much pros at it. We have hand sanitizers almost every couple of feet. We have social distancing markers on the floor where patients can guide themselves as far as how to stand from each other. We have plexiglass in front of the reception areas. And then, once they come back into the clinical areas and the rooms, everybody has the appropriate PPE on. We do ask our patients to wear masks that we provide for them. They can certainly come to the office with their own masks, but we do also provide masks for them to wear while they’re in the facility.

“And all those protocols are being taken as well as screening questions as well so that we make sure that patients who, though we still want to care for them, but if they’re having symptoms of COVID or if they’ve been recently exposed then we can guide them to a more appropriate center for care.”

Dr. Fialkow: “How do you approach prevention and early detection with your patients?”

Dr. Kaur: “Another thing patients should understand is that medicine is dynamic. Guidelines change, recommendations change every few years. Patients need to be educated about that. And then of course, prevention is the best treatment. So, when we do these screening tests and diagnostics, we can pick up on disease hopefully in the early stages and treat it so it doesn’t progress.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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