Ever wish your doctor just had a little more time to sit and listen? Hope they’d explain things in more detail, with choices, tips, and advice tailored to your needs? Ever have 20 questions to ask…the day after the visit…but it’s too late to ask now?
It’s not a secret that the health care experience doesn’t often match what we’re seeking in today’s high-stress, fast-paced world. For primary care clinics in particular – where we’re supposed to go to manage our everyday health – the bustle of hurried, impersonal 10-15-minute visits don’t often meet the needs and expectations of patients who really want to address their health needs. It’s not surprising then that an estimated 80 million Americans don’t have a primary care provider (PCP) managing their routine health care needs; 22% don’t have a PCP even when they pay for private insurance – adults are choosing not to use it. That is a clear sign that there must be a better way to engage people who don’t get what they need out of our current traditional health care model.
The majority of those without a PCP are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s – the ages at which we typically don’t have a lot of medical problems but deal with all sorts of factors like weight gain, stress, decreased activity, and lack of sleep. These issues inevitably feed into the future problems that manifest as chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The decades between our 20s and 50s are crucial for establishing a healthy lifestyle and preventing crippling chronic diseases in the future. There must be a better way for the health care system to support people who aren’t sick yet, but who aren’t totally healthy either. With a system that emphasizes treating diagnoses more than preventing them, far too often we turn to the internet and other unreliable sources for a DIY approach to health. We all need a trusted advisor along with a plan to meet our health goals, so we can get healthy and stay healthy as we move through life.
Mental health concerns continue to plague many Americans. High levels of stress, anxiety, and disconnectedness were felt throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With our increasingly busy lives characterized by little time for conversation and reflection, it is not surprising that an enormous number of Americans feel extreme stress. Roughly three quarters of adults experience impacts to their physical and mental health from stress. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America2020 report notes that Generation X and Millennials have higher levels of stress, with parents having more stress than non-parents. Extreme stress can manifest physically as all sorts of symptoms: irritability, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, indigestion, and muscular pain. With nowhere to go and nobody interested in listening, oftentimes these symptoms are diagnosed as a variety of illnesses treated with a slew of pills; really, sometimes the most effective treatment is just for a PCP with time and interest to sit and listen.
So, what’s the solution? It’s PCPs who take the time to care: to sit and listen, to counsel, to advise, to follow up and follow through on a plan to help people help themselves in their unique personal health journeys. An innovative PCP clinic doesn’t need a lot of expensive technology to be effective, but rather a model that puts the patient first for the long haul.