Be sure to put a visit to your primary care physician on your list of New Year’s plans. If you don’t have a physician, resolve to find one this year. “A primary care physician is really your medical home,” said Board Certified Pediatrician Mary Lynn Bundy, MD. “He or she will keep a comprehensive summary of everything that goes on with your health.”
Mary Lynn Bundy, MD
Board Certified Pediatrician
Dr. Bundy and Associates, LLC
A primary care physician knows your family history, medical history and habits and treats the whole person as opposed to just one ailment or condition. This doctor will coordinate your care and be an expert guide to the medical system should you need to access additional services or specialists.
“The time to get a primary care physician is before you are sick,” said Board Certified Internist and Pediatrician Christina Minrath, MD. “You want to already be established as a patient when a cold, sore throat or other illness sets in. Don’t wait until you are sick.” Board Certified Family Medicine Physician Brian Heimer, MD, FAPWCA, agreed. “Get established with a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.
Ask family members and friends about their experiences with other doctors. If you are leaving an area, ask your physician to refer you to a physician in the area where you are going.” Having an established primary care physician also saves time when it’s most critical. Like most of the country, Southern Indiana is experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians. Some offices have waiting lists for new patients or a months-long wait for a new-patient visit. If you already have an established relationship with a doctor, you can much more readily schedule an appointment when you need one.
Doctors agree that prevention and early detection are the keys to good health. They recommend that people of all ages have yearly physical exams to screen for signs of health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and certain kinds of cancer. Women also should receive regular mammograms and pap smears according to recommended guidelines. Additionally, with yearly visits to their primary care physicians, patients with chronic conditions can ensure that the treatment for one condition isn’t adversely affecting another.
“A lot of people, especially younger people, seem to forget about a yearly exam, but it is important,” Dr. Heimer said. For example, screening young males for testicular cancer and reviewing with them any inherited tendencies toward conditions
such as heart disease can help avoid problems down the line.
“While visiting their primary care physicians, patients can check to see that they are current on immunizations,” said Dr. Minrath. “And January is not too late to receive seasonal or H1N1 vaccines if you still need them.”
Christina Minrath, MD
Board Certified Internist and Pediatrician
Physician Associates of Floyd Knobs
Don’t Wait to Address Weight
Avisit to the primary care physician may reveal surprises, such as a large weight gain. “Kids are less active and are heavier today than they used to be. As a result, there’s been an explosion of Type 2 diabetes in the juvenile population,” said Dr. Bundy. “What I find is that a lot of times a child comes to the office and has gained a significant amount of weight. The parent didn’t even realize it or else didn’t know how to approach the subject.”
The new year is a great time to make family exercise a priority by joining the YMCA or finding other ways to stay active, she said. “It’s a mistake to think children or adults will gain weight in winter and lose it in the summer,” she added. “In fact, weight gains usually accumulate.”
Dr. Bundy encourages parents to think about their children’s future health needs. For example, if a child will need a camp or sports physical, make an appointment early so there is adequate time to get on the schedule and prepare the necessary forms. When an unexpected health issue strikes, the best course of action can be turning to your primary care physician.
Dr. Bundy recommends using a doctor’s 24-hour phone service or speaking to the physician on-call to get advice on whether your symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room or can wait until the next day’s office hours. Many primary care physicians, particularly pediatricians, also keep evening and weekend hours, she added.
Family Health Centers are available in Clark and Floyd counties to provide medical care and resources for individuals who are either un- or underinsured. The centers offer the expertise of local physicians and medical professionals who donate their time to offer healthcare to all members of the community. For more information, contact your local Center.
Clark County Family Health Center – 812-283-2308
Floyd County Family Health Center – 812-941-1701
Brian Heimer, MD, FAPWCA
Board Certified Family Medicine Physician
Physicians Group, Inc.
Tips for Improving Communication with Your Doctor
The following tips are offered for improving communication and making the most out of your visit with your primary care physician:
- Write down a list of questions. Many patients feel hurried or nervous and forget what they wanted to ask. Consider faxing or emailing your questions in advance of your appointment.
- Disclose all information. Many patients are embarrassed to reveal all the facts, making their conditions harder to diagnose
- Banish embarrassment. From sexual dysfunction to anatomy, your questions will not surprise or embarrass your doctor.
- Take medications as prescribed. Don’t give up or change medications without talking to your doctor.
- Notify your doctor if you have an urgent illness or hospitalization.
Looking for a physician? Call Baptist Health Floyd’s Physician Referral Line today at 1-800-4-SOURCE (1-800-476-8723).