Greenville doctor stresses growing need for patients to seek family doctors

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Forty-five percent of adults under the age of 30 in America do not have a primary care doctor, according to a 2019 poll Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

Dr. Steve Newman, Bon Secours’ Regional Medical Director of Primary Care, said he is concerned about this trend, and believes a growing number of people are replacing primary care doctors with urgent care centers for the sake of convenience.

“An urgent care center or a virtual doctor visit – those are great for simple things,” he said. “…But if you’ve got things that are evolving, it would probably be wise to say, ‘I need to go to the person who knows me best.’ I think it’s a trend nationally, particularly among younger patients, that tend to look for convenience over substance.”

Dr. Newman said developing a long term relationship with a primary care doctor you trust can help prevent health problems before they arise and save patients money in the long run.

“We live in a society that is really geared toward immediate gratification, lets get you in and out, but there’s value in sitting down and talking to someone and getting to know their history, their challenges, maybe some of their habits that may not be very healthy,” he said. “Look for someone who you feel like listens and takes time with you and not just learning more about the problem you came in for, but also learning what makes you tick.

“You’re most likely also going to be seeking help and care at an earlier stage when its much simpler and less expensive to fix and take care of.”

Seeing the entire family can also creates medical insights, he added. “I can’t tell you how many issues and problems that have arisen that I wouldn’t have been privy to if I hadn’t been taking care of the entire family.”

Dr. Newman added it also makes it easier to keep a health history.

“One of the greatest challenges I think that is facing our healthcare system is the incompatibility of electronic records with each other,” he said. “The inability for information to be seamlessly communicated between organizations and between entities does create some challenges. If you’re using those entities more than not, it’s probably not in your interest long term because it’s not easy to review those records. Often, medicines get repeated. That in and of itself does create a value in seeing the same person consistently.”

Ultimately, he described family doctors as the “quarterback” of your team of health care providers, “passing the ball” to specialists as needed.

“Think about trying to play football without someone leading the team,” he said. “It creates chaos and ultimately you don’t win the game.”

He also recommends finding a doctor before you have an urgent need, preferably at a younger age so you can establish a relationship well ahead of time and a baseline for what is “normal” for you. “There’s no doubt that family care physicians are in high demand and short supply,” Dr. Newman said. “Don’t wait until you have a problem to seek one out.”

Dr. Newman said that when looking for a reputable family physician, it’s often most helpful to ask friends or family for recommendations and look for overall trends in online reviews. He also said insurance companies rate physicians based on quality measures among other categories.

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