Categorized | Colorado News, National News, News

Alternatives Are Changing the Role of the Primary Care Doctor

No more waiting for the doctor’s office to open. Convenience rules in health care now, where patients can use technology or growing options such as walk-in clinics and urgent care centers to get help whenever they need it.  A survey last year found that about a quarter of U.S. adults don’t have a regular doctor.

Health care experts say the changing, fragmented nature of care is precisely why people still need someone who looks out for their overall health, the traditional role of primary care physicians such as family doctors and internists.

They know patients’ medical histories, and they’re trained to spot problems that may be developing instead of just addressing symptoms that prompted the patient’s visit. They also can make sure medications don’t conflict with regular prescriptions, and they can help make sense of the information patients dig up with a Google search.

But the nature of primary care is changing as patients branch off to drugstore clinics and urgent care centers. Practices are slowly shifting to more of a team-based approach that focuses on keeping patients healthy and reserves visits with a doctor for the more serious cases.

This evolution began years ago when drugstores started providing flu shots and opening clinics that handle minor issues such as ear infections or pink eye. The two largest chains, CVS Health and Walgreens, now run about 1,500 clinics combined.

More recently, employers have started adding worksite clinics, and thousands of urgent care centers have opened around the country to treat emergencies that aren’t life-threatening. Then there’s telemedicine, which patients can use to connect to a doctor in minutes without leaving their home or office.

To learn what the future may bring, read the Associated Press story in The Denver Post

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