Primary care delivery is a topic that really should be a more common feature of discussions about global healthcare. This is because utilizing primary care services can make such a difference in a given person’s day to day life. Still there are many parts of the world where primary care delivery is largely absent from local healthcare systems. What is primary care, and how can it help to greatly increase health outcomes? Here, Pacific Prime discusses the topic and provides examples from the location of our worldwide headquarters.
What is primary care?
While the dictionary definition of primary care is, “health care provided by a medical professional with whom a patient has initial contact and by whom the patient may be referred to a specialist…” this simple sentence doesn’t really encase the full meaning of what primary care is for the patients that receive it. With primary care delivery, you truly develop a closer relationship with your primary care provider who, in most cases, will be a general practitioner, family physician, nurse practitioner, or pediatric doctor or nurse practitioner. Usually, a primary care provider can even be a registered nurse, clinical officer or pharmacist, though these will likely be found in countries where GPs are in short supply.
Primary care vs acute care
Perhaps a better way to explain what primary care services are would be to compare to the type of care that is essentially its antithesis: acute care. Acute care is simply healthcare that addresses an existing ailment or condition. This means that you already have a pressing injury or illness that needs to be addressed quickly, and require a purely reactive method of dispensing healthcare. Healthcare systems focusing on acute care means that medical staff will likely only interact with patients only after something is already wrong.
On the other hand, primary care delivery seeks to address a patient’s health even when they do not have any immediate treatment needs. By repeatedly seeing the same doctor over a long period of time, a primary care provider can better chart a patient’s health history and provide lifestyle, nutrition, and chronic disease management strategies designed to optimize health outcomes in the long term. Furthermore, all medical records can be shared with the primary care provider so that they are fully versed in a patient’s current medical standing at any given point in time.
Another benefit of primary care delivery is that the patient gets to become more comfortable with their primary care provider over time. Rather than utilizing a different medical professional each time they seek treatment, those that have primary care providers get to build trust over time with their doctor, and thus are more comfortable to share the kinds of intimate details that can be awkward to discuss with a total stranger, even if they are a doctor.
What does a system without primary care services look like?
Pacific Prime’s head office is located in Hong Kong. Anyone who has used the healthcare system here to some extent is familiar with the lack of primary care services in the city. So what does a healthcare system without primary care delivery look like? Here are some of the most common ways people in Hong Kong receive healthcare:
The doctor of choice is the most convenient doctor: Sometimes, people in Hong Kong will avail themselves of doctor’s office or small clinic when they feel under the weather. The thing is, there may not be any consistency in which office they choose. In many cases, patients simply use a doctor’s office near wherever they happen to be. While this may be effective for obtaining a doctor’s note and a prescription, it certainly will not foster an ongoing preventive care strategy.
Reliance on the emergency department and public hospitals: For many people in Hong Kong, going straight to the hospital may be the first option when it comes to seeking medical treatment, if for no other reason than it’s the cheapest option. This is because public hospitals are highly subsidized, so, despite the long wait times. The problem here is that there is no guarantee which doctor you will see when you go to seek treatment. Once you do see the doctor, they will not only be unfamiliar with your case, but they will also be hurried in their actions, as there will be a steady stream of patients behind you waiting to be seen.
Hopefully, the above clearly exemplifies what a healthcare system not focused on primary care delivery looks like, as well as where such a system can fall short. Now, let’s dig into the specific benefits afforded by primary care services.
Benefits of primary care delivery
It has been proven that health systems that focus on primary care delivery, as opposed to specialist care, produce better health outcomes for patients by improving access to care, upgrading continuity between patients and doctors, and reducing preventable mortality. Additionally, for healthcare systems, a primary care approach can mean big cost reductions in the long run, as preventive care ends up reducing the workload that hospitals take on over the long term thanks to people’s improved health.
Preventive care is a big part of primary care services. Preventive care is exactly what it sounds like. By taking a holistic approach to health and managing lifestyle, emotional and psychological health, nutrition, environmental factors, and hereditary risk factors all at once, doctors and patients can prevent serious illnesses before they even start. Millions of people around the world die of preventable causes every year. The proliferation of preventive care that primary care physicians provide could theoretically help avoid these deaths.
Speaking of heredity risk factors, sometimes a disease is going to develop in a patient no matter what they do to try to prevent it. In these cases, primary care delivery can help patients focus on chronic disease management, as opposed to crisis management, which is what occurs when a chronic disease becomes a (possibly life threatening) emergency.
Covering primary care delivery costs
Primary care services have been shown to improve health outcomes, but not everyone utilizes it, and there’s a reason for that. In many cases, primary care is simply a more expensive option; at least on the surface. While long term costs can certainly be decreased, many patients, doctors and governments are simply focused on immediate medical needs. If saving money is a concern, it can be easier on your wallet to simply to go to the hospital or see a doctor only for acute treatment. This will cut out the ‘middle man’ that is a primary care physician, and get a patient to a specialist as quickly as possible. Of course, the more that a person is willing to spend on their healthcare, the better treatment they are likely to receive.
With this in mind Pacific Prime advises that all those who would like to seek primary care services obtain a comprehensive private health insurance plan with benefits for outpatient coverage. With this type of coverage, you will be able to see your primary care doctor on a somewhat regular basis and receive all the necessary screenings that may be required to properly identify potential health problems.
The thing is, many people only possess Individual health insurance with inpatient coverage that will only address the most serious of acute ailments. If this sounds like your plan, it may be time to shop around and upgrade your coverage. That’s where the helpful private health insurance experts at Pacific Prime come in! Not only can we identify any shortcomings within your existing policy, we can give you a free quote and plan comparison for the individual health insurance plans on the market that best fit your needs. That way, you can easily access a primary care provider and get started on the path to better health. Contact us today!