Ask the Doctor
What is Primary Care and why should it matter to you?
One aspect is clear: primary care in India is facing a crisis situation. Most people, laymen and medical practitioners included, still do not know the purpose of primary care. As a result, unlike in developed countries where government and educational organizations whole-heartedly support primary care practitioners, our doctors are burdened with too much paperwork and insufficient and crooked compensations. Because of this, there are far fewer numbers of family physicians, paediatricians, gynaecologists, geriatricians, nurses and physician assistants in our cities than ever.
Why does this become an issue?
In 2004, an estimated 59 percent of deaths in India were caused by non-communicable disease conditions. Primary healthcare practitioners can directly affect the fate of these patients by keeping people healthy and treating illnesses early and correctly. Competent and well-directed care from your family physician can save you from unnecessary visits to the hospital, which in turn, saves on significant hospital expenses.
So, how can you get better value from your doctor?
All this has lead to that fact that healthcare model is slowly but surely shifting away from the customary fee-for-service care. Today, doctors and medical groups are now working towards providing comprehensive and preventive care for patients. And it’s time for you get with it too.
Your family doctor is no longer the person you turn to when feeling a bit under the weather and need a quick prescription. Here are some of the other ways to reach out to him or her
- Engage in constant dialogue with your doctor about your diabetes, high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol through regular visits and staying in touch over the phone and email.
- Meet your doctor and other qualified medical assistants to set up self-management health goals.
- Seek out more information about your health by asking your doctor to share your reports and medical history in detail after each session. This allows you to keep track of your progress and focus on the right aspects.
Setting right primary care for Indian patients by making sure that time spent with your doctor is more meaningful and productive is a complicated process. While many physicians strongly believe in the need for this quality service, it is a rather expensive change that puts more pressure on the already burdened health system.
As a citizen and moreover, as a human being, you can make the system work for you by engaging further with your family physician for your health.
This is the first column in our ‘Ask the Doctor’ series. If you have any questions for Dr. Bose, you may post them in the comments section below, or if you prefer, you can email him at email@example.com
As Chief, Medical Operations at Healthspring, Dr Kushilab Bose (Surgeon Captain Indian Navy (Retd.)) is directly responsible for delivering quality care across their centres. He also provides strategic direction to the patient-centric approach at Healthspring.