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|Newsletters: Partnering with Your Primary Care Provider|
Partnering with Your Primary Care Provider
In order for you to receive comprehensive medical care, it is essential that you find a physician with whom you can partner, especially if you have special needs or are medically complex. If you are a caregiver, the physician must be willing to partner with you and the patient. Finding someone to provide physical, psychosocial, and spiritual care is at best challenging for patients, their families, and the caregivers involved in this process.
Primary care providers (PCPs) who care for these special groups face challenges heightened by the complexity of the patients they serve. The limited amount of time available to a PCP makes it necessary for him or her to organize and plan prior to the encounter with the patient or caregiver. Likewise, the patient and caregiver can increase the effectiveness of the encounter by identifying their perceived priority (be it physical, mental, or spiritual) before the planned visit.
Traits to Look for in a PCP
The PCP is essential in helping his or her patients (or caregivers) navigate the health care system. The PCP who has listened well and formed a partnership with his or her patients and families is often called upon to advocate for them. From the first phone call to the comprehensive report sent to another medical system, this PCP is a key player in the care the patient receives.
The PCP with keen communication and listening skills will foster his or her relationship with patients and their families. By creating an air of openness, the PCP helps to create a positive relationship with the patient and family. As the PCP eliminates physical and emotional boundaries, patients are better able to provide and receive information. By giving the patient or family his or her full attention, the PCP helps keep the focus on the individual and/or caregivers.
The traits of a PCP willing to partner with a patient and/or caregiver include:
Traits for Individuals or Caregivers to Practice
The responsibility of the patient and caregiver is also well recognized. It is unfair to think that all medical issues will be solved in one visit, or, in some cases, ever. Patients and caregivers need to be willing to provide the PCP with the medical, psychosocial, or spiritual background information that will help them or their loved one gain increased health and ultimately improve their quality of life. Additionally, individuals and their caregivers need to realize that the PCP and his or her team are invested in the well-being of individuals and caregivers, and when setbacks occur, all members of the team feel the frustration.
Individuals and caregivers who believe they have “all the answers” have lost their objectivity, making it difficult for them to provide and gain assistance from those who want to help them with their medical and other issues. All members of the team, including the patients and caregivers, need to develop the art of listening, as much can be learned from really hearing what the person or team is trying to say.
Traits that are exhibited by individuals and caregivers who choose to partner with the PCP include:
In today’s medical climate, it is imperative that you work to create a strong relationship with your PCP. Ultimately, patients, caregivers, and PCPs must realize that life is a journey and the partnership forged will create life-changing results for all.
Our thanks to Joyce for sharing her thoughts on this topic. Joyce is the mother of eight children and six grandchildren. One daughter and one grandchild are medically complex.
LifelineLetter, September/October 2013