Primary Care Physicians: Valuable to Good Health Regardless of Your Age

Author: MarinHealth

If you are looking for a physician who over your lifetime will be essential to your health, look no farther than a primary care physician (PCP). Primary care physicians are our first line of defense against illness and injury. They can treat the majority of your medical issues, coordinate necessary exams and screenings, help manage chronic diseases like high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes and suggest healthy lifestyle changes to prevent disease in the future.

They also identify and refer patients to the network of resources within the community including specialists, subspecialists or community programs should further diagnosis or treatment be needed,

You can choose either a family medicine or internist for yourself, a pediatrician for your children, or a geriatrician for an elderly parent.

Internal Medicine

Internal medicine doctors focus on adults and are specially trained in the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. An internal medicine physician is considered a generalist in adolescent medicine, allergy and immunology, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, infectious disease, nephrology, oncology, pulmonology, rheumatology, and sports medicine.

Family Medicine

Family medicine physicians see patients of all ages, from newborn to elderly, so your whole family can receive care from one expert! Family medicine physicians receive three years of specialty training in inpatient and outpatient medicine – this includes procedural and pediatric training with an emphasis on behavioral science and patient communication.

Pediatric Care

Infants, children, and adolescents go through a number of physical and mental changes from birth to the age of 18. Pediatricians are PCPs trained to handle the unique needs of patients during this time of rapid growth. They focus on diseases and disorders that are common during childhood and adolescence. These include both physical and mental conditions—from asthma and allergies to ADHD and other behavioral health disorders.

Geriatric Medicine

Geriatricians are physicians specially trained to work with patients ages 65 and older. Medical needs often increase during senior years, and geriatricians are highly familiar with the common challenges patients face during this period. A skilled geriatrician can help patients address some of the typical health concerns that people deal with as they get older, such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, joint replacement surgery, hearing loss, and dementia.

If you are one of the more than forty percent of adults age 18 to 64 in this country who have chosen a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) for health insurance coverage or are one of 40% of seniors in California who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the role of your primary care physician is especially important. They have the important job of being your “team captain,” or personal coordinator of your healthcare, making sure you get the right treatment in the right place at the right time.

HMOs and Medicare Advantage plans have shown to be a cost savings healthcare coverage option for patients, employers and insurance providers while at the same time achieving better health outcomes.

That’s the good news. Unfortunately, just as cost savings efforts such as managed care are growing and reports show that adding even a handful of primary care physicians per 100,000 people results in lower mortality*, the number of primary care physicians is shrinking. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of up to 43,000 primary care doctors by 2030. California is expected to face a statewide shortfall of primary care providers in the next 15 years, according to a recent report from Healthforce Center at UCSF. The Bay Area and Northern California already have a shortfall, but less than in other areas such as the Central Valley and the southern border. Rural areas and economically disadvantaged areas will be facing an especially critical shortage.

With open enrollment beginning in November, now would be a good time to establish yourself with a primary care physician. The MarinHealth Medical Network (formerly Prima Medical Foundation and Marin Healthcare District Health Centers) offers primary care practices in convenient locations across the North Bay, including Sonoma, Novato, San Rafael, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Greenbrae, and Sausalito. All are connected with other MarinHealth specialists to easily collaborate on your care.

Go to www.mymarinhealth.org and click on Find a Provider. You can find details about the physicians listed such as location, languages spoken, and other details which are important to you.

*JAMA Internal Medicine report, February 2019