Monday Medical: The many roles of primary care
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
With knowledge and training spanning the full range of medical issues, primary care providers play an important role in fostering a healthy lifestyle.
“From common illnesses and common injuries to complex illnesses and complex issues, primary care providers do a little bit of everything and serve as a great gateway to specialists,” said Dr. Jon Hamilton, a primary care physician with UCHealth Primary Care in Craig.
Below, Hamilton outlines things to know about primary care providers.
Identify trends, prevent disease
A primary care provider who sees you for regular physicals is specially equipped to help spot issues.
“Having your own primary care provider is very important,” Hamilton said. “That provider gets to know you as a person, and they’re able to notice trends that might indicate something is wrong.”
For instance, they can help patients better understand their risk factors for issues from heart disease to diabetes and take steps for prevention.
“Discussing risks of future heart disease based on family history and a patient’s own history goes a long way to preventing future events,” Hamilton said. “Watching kidney function, and talking through risk factors for tobacco or alcohol use, can help us address issues before they happen.”
“With yearly exams, you’re going to see the same person, and your kids can see the same person, and your parents can see the same person, year after year,” Hamilton said. “That really goes a long way in establishing trust.”
Primary care providers can take care of most urgent health issues, including stitching up lacerations.
“A lot of times, patients don’t understand the depth of the scope of some of the dermatological procedures we can do,” Hamilton said. “We can take biopsies, treat some orthopedic injuries and in certain areas, help with pregnancy and childbirth.”
If you’re driving a truck or machinery for work or trying to get your pilot’s license, you’ll likely need to pass a specific health exam to ensure you are able to perform your duties. These exams can be conducted by many primary care providers.
Hamilton, who has been certified as a senior aeromedical examiner and is a pilot himself, has a passion for helping pilots obtain what’s needed to safely fly.
“So many people’s work depends upon those medical exams,” Hamilton said. “There’s not a better person to get those from than your primary care provider, as they know your entire history.”
And don’t worry if a health condition crops up.
“A lot of people have a misunderstanding that sleep apnea will cause them to fail their DOT (Department of Transportation) or flight physical exam, and that’s not true,” Hamilton said. “Being treated for hypertension doesn’t mean you’re going to lose either one of those.”
If issues are found, your primary care provider can help manage treatments and navigate specialized care when needed.
Prep, don’t stress
Hamilton encourages patients to come to appointments with a list of concerns and questions.
“That’s the best way to get what you want out of a doctor’s visit,” Hamilton said. “Ask your questions, and feel free to ask the provider who they are so you can develop that level of trust.”
And do your best not to worry.
“It shouldn’t be a stressful thing,” Hamilton said. “It should be somewhat fun to go see the doctor.”
Since a primary care provider often sees patients year after year, a special relationship can build.
“I just enjoy sitting down and visiting with people and getting to know them,” Hamilton said. “And I enjoy seeing them outside of the clinic and calling them friend.”
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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