August 30, 2021
Taking a proactive approach to your health is one of the most effective tools you have for staying well. But you don’t have to go it alone. Think of your family doctor as your partner in preventive medicine — your first line of defense against illness and a trusted guide to help you navigate the screenings, lifestyle changes and resources that can keep you healthy at every stage of your life.
Getting Back on Track
The pandemic has created many challenges, outside of COVID-19 itself. Many people have suffered from isolation, grief, financial loss, job stress and more, resulting in increased levels of anxiety and depression. Others have put off routine wellness visits or annual screenings for a year or more, or let healthy habits fall by the wayside, such as regular exercise or watching their intake of salt.
Having a connection with a family medicine provider is the first step in reclaiming your health, evaluating your needs, and setting attainable wellness goals to get you back on track.
Here are five ways your family doctor supports you in being your healthiest:
In addition to ordering diagnostic tests when patients are symptomatic, family doctors provide testing or guidance around age-appropriate screenings—from autism spectrumdisorder in young patients to urinary incontinence or osteoporosis in older patients.
We check cholesterol and other lipids to assess your risk for heart disease, and test blood glucose for diabetes. We remind patients of the importance of regular cancerscreenings such as mammograms and pap smears, and while colonoscopies remain the gold standard for early detection of colorectal cancer, we also offer at-home testing kits to ensure patients have options for early detection.
These preventive measures are all about assessing risk and diagnosing illness at its earliest and most treatable stage. Your family doctor can work with you to reduce your risk factors or manage your condition and keep you at optimal health.
Scheduling regular wellness visits with your primary care provider lets us track health patterns over a period of time and helps inform any additional screenings that may be beneficial, such as tuberculosis testing for patients who work in certain environments.
Many chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, can be safely and effectively managed in the primary care setting. From dietary changes to exercise to medication management, your provider can help you set goals, monitor your progress and answer your questions.
One advantage of establishing a trusted relationship with your family doctor is that you have someone to turn to if your health needs suddenly change. In addition to treating you in the primary care setting, we can serve as the central point of contact when connecting you to specialty care.
3.Your Connection to Specialty Care
When your provider is part of a robust network like Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Physicians, communication between primary care doctors and specialists is both convenient and encouraged. We stay in touch with specialists to make sure your care is coordinated and timely, and if a specialist appointment is not immediately available, your primary care doctor can still e-consult with that specialist to discuss next steps, so your care is not delayed. We also share access to the same electronic medical record, so your primary care doctor can review your test results with you when ordered by a specialist in our network.
4.Mental Health Support
Primary care providers screen patients for mental health issues, too. This has been especially vital during the pandemic. We screen patients for depression and anxiety, as well as issues like domestic violence and opioid use disorder, and connect them to appropriate treatments and support as needed.
5.Technology That Brings the Doctor to You
The pandemic gave rise to the widespread use of telemedicine allowing patients to be seen by doctors from the comfort and safety of home. Virtual visits are here to stay, giving patients who are quarantining or have scheduling, transportation or mobility issues an alternative to in-office care. Primary care offices are also using virtual visits to shorten the time between in-person follow-up appointments. I might use telemedicine to check on a patient who was recently ill, to make sure they are taking their medication and continuing to improve.
Primary care doctors are using new in-office technology to take a proactive approach to medicine. For example: Teleretina screening for diabetic retinopathy, which uses a special camera to capture and send images of the eyes to a specialist for review. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness, but it is 90 percent treatable when caught early. TeleDerm is a secure platform that allows providers to take pictures of skin problems at the office and send them to a dermatologist for remote evaluation and management suggestions.
Finally, we offer patients hands-on management of their healthcare through the MyLGHealth patient portal, which allows you to securely schedule appointments, view test results, request medication refills and communicate with your doctor quickly and easily from any computer or mobile phone. It’s a real game-changer.