Coach Tip Tuesday: A primary care physician is an invaluable member of your team
Photo Description: A patient and a doctor in the middle of an appointment in an examination room.
It is once again time for Coach Tip Tuesday!!
You’ve heard me talk in the past about how each and every athlete has a massive team behind them. This team can include SO many different people: family members, friends, coaches, physical therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, strength trainers, mental strength coaches, counselors, and more. This week, my tip is to consider a very important addition to this team: a primary care physician.
No matter what your health insurance status is, there is tremendous value in having a primary care physician. I’ve heard a lot of reasons over the years why people don’t have one - everything ranging from “I haven’t had time to find one” to “I don’t get sick very often, so it doesn’t seem worthwhile.” With urgent care facilities seemingly popping up on every corner, it can feel like this isn’t something that is necessary. But, here me out. It really is important.
The heart of what I’m talking about here is a relationship. By having a primary care physician, you establish a longer-term relationship with a specific medical provider. Like all relationships, it grows over time as you communicate and get to know each other. This allows the provider to give you the best care and for you to be able to receive the best care. Excellence of care simply cannot happen if you are switching between medical providers every time something goes on medically with you (as is the case when one goes to an urgent care facility for any/all medical insight).
Think about it this way: imagine that you had an endurance goal and you went to a different coach each week to try and achieve that goal. Do you think that that would be the best plan to set yourself up for success?? Maintaining your long-term health is a very important goal, and as such, it’s important to have longer-term relationships in managing that goal/care.
Additionally, having a primary care provider can actually save you money in the long run. Most insurance plans in the United States charge higher rates and co-pays for visits to urgent care facilities versus primary care physicians. Furthermore, most urgent care facilities recommend following up with a primary care provider. So, if a patient is compliant and follows that recommended care plan, the patient has effectively doubled their medical visits (in both time and cost).
I have had the same primary care physician for almost 12 years (Dr. Nisha Singh at Family Practice Associates). My relationship with Dr. Singh has proven invaluable over the years. When I was hit by a car and was instructed to follow-up with her after my hospital visit, she saw me immediately when I called, even though her schedule was full that day. If I need a refill on a regular medication, I can call and as for a prescription to be sent to a pharmacy. When I self-referred into physical therapy this summer (which I’m allowed to do in New York State for up to 30 days), she wrote a prescription for me to continue PT beyond that 30 days without having me come in (and pay for) an office visit since I was in PT for an issue related to a surgery that I had years ago (which she is aware of since she has ALL of medical records from ALL medical providers I’ve seen for the last 12 years). These two instances are just two where having Dr. Singh in my life has saved me money. Finally, when I’ve been sick (which is incredibly infrequently) and have needed to be seen, she sees me, usually on the day that I call and request to be seen. No waiting in busy waiting rooms, wondering when it’s my turn. No worrying about who I’ll see. I know and trust her, and I know that I’m seeing HER.
I have the honor of coaching an athlete who is a practicing Christian Scientist. As a Christian Scientist, this athlete doesn’t go to doctors. But even this athlete does have trusted a Christian Science Practitioner/Healer that they can consult with when they are experiencing any number of ailments, and especially physical ones. While this person isn’t a medical physician in the same terms that we tend to think of when we hear that term, the idea is the same: this athlete has a relationship with a healer that they trust, and they place great value on this specific relationship. It’s this relationship that I’m advocating for this week.
No matter what you believe spiritually or what your situation is on the insurance front, there is value in having a relationship with a provider that you trust. Investing just a little bit of time upfront in researching providers can go a long way over the course of your life to ensure that you will receive the very best, compassionate care possible when medical events (inevitably) happen in your life.
Please consider having a medical provider (primary care physician) on YOUR team to help you maintain your best you. :)
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Endurance and Paratriathlon Certified Coach, IRONMAN U Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success. She can be reached at laura@teamMPI.com.