Chronic disease effects millions of Americans and will continue to escalate to the point that nearly half of the United States’ population will be effected. But what exactly is a chronic disease? By definition, it is a medical condition that lasts more than 3 months and is not preventable nor is it curable.
Patients know chronic diseases by their names, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and cancer to name a few. And with each of these conditions comes challenges to manage the condition and still live a full life. To further complicate the issue, patients often suffer from several conditions simultaneously. This is where a primary care physician is the most valuable asset a patient can have.
Chronic Disease Management is a Team Effort
There is a very distinctive relationship between the primary care doctor and the patient, with the main component being trust. But effective disease management is a team effort between the doctor’s staff, the doctor and the patient, with each team member providing an important role. Along with the help of the staff, the primary care physician can put together a customized and detailed plan for each patient based on each of their individual needs. The patient has one simple job, follow the plan of action.
The patient has many benefits from having one doctor that is overseeing all aspects of their health care, and can get better answers to their questions. Chronic disease care also includes:
- Improved access to information – A major component of managing chronic illness is to pay attention to how the body is affected, whether that’s blood pressure, insulin levels, cholesterol or some other quantifiable indicator. Research clearly demonstrates that patients who are informed about these indicators are better able to keep them within safe levels. Having the primary care doctor overseeing all of these components gives each patient a higher level of care and well as a better understanding of their health.
- Health coaching – It’s not just about delivering information, though. If patients don’t know what to do with the information, it’s meaningless. Physicians experienced with treating chronic disease can help patients take control of their health, providing education and coaching in how to improve various health metrics. If it’s shedding a few pounds or controlling triglycerides, a primary care physician should have a plan in place for their patients to follow.
- More detailed record keeping – Just like having patient data in one place is important, so is long-term record keeping. By using a PCP as the coordinator for patient records, it means there is a more comprehensive set of records allowing for quality care. Better record keeping helps the primary care physician know exactly what tests are needed, what the results of those tests are and better management based on the test results.
- A focus on patient wellness – Data is important, but it’s not as important as how the patient feels. After all, the point is to make life easier and more pleasant for the patient. Research shows that when physicians address a patient’s anxieties about their condition and focus on alleviating the most troubling symptoms, patient outcomes greatly improve. Physicians, therefore, must place special emphasis on communication when working with patients who are dealing with a chronic illness.
Chronic disease is often a frustrating thing to live with, but with a developed medical team headed by a caring primary care physician, it can be managed.