How Do Primary Care Providers Support Patients?

Care Providers

Today, more people have access to the health insurance they deserve and need. In the past, fewer people sought appointments with primary care providers due to their coverage, skipping important preventative care visits and screenings.

Of course, there has been a shortage of healthcare providers for quite some time. With more people seeking care, the shortage of primary care providers has become even more evident. Collaboration between nurse practitioners, doctors, and specialists helps close the gaps in care to ensure that no one is left behind.

Collaboration between medical teams and specialists

Positive outcomes rely on great collaboration between primary care providers and other doctors and specialists. Collaboration also involves having excellent records and communications systems in place so that everyone always has the same knowledge.

Some medical systems achieve this by having a network. Professionals refer patients to those specialists within the network so patient health records can be updated in real-time and accessed by anyone with the credentials to do so. This allows every professional to see treatment plans, past procedures, current medications, and more. Collaboration also ensures that there are fewer mistakes.

Better collaboration improves efficiency and patient care

When providers work together, they can streamline care to reduce waiting, thus each workday is used more efficiently. Good task delegation means that specialized skills are used more often. Having a great support team at a medical facility can make all the difference.

As the demand for healthcare workers outweighs the supply, it is more important than ever that their time is well planned.

Primary care providers can interpret test results

It is common for medical tests to be performed outside of a primary care setting, like a hospital. Collecting samples for testing may be performed at a primary care facility when possible. For example, if a simple blood draw, swab, or urine sample is all that is needed then it will likely be collected by a primary care provider. The sample is still sent off to a lab for analysis, however.

Primary care providers receive the test results and then explain them to patients and caregivers in a way that is easy to understand. Test results often lead to either more extensive testing or a treatment plan and referral to specialists for ongoing treatments for any conditions that are diagnosed.

A primary care provider may order additional tests themselves or refer a patient to a specialist clinic for a secondary opinion to confirm a diagnosis or for additional tests to reinforce a diagnosis. Primary care providers collaborate with specialists to decide what the best course of action is for the patient and work together to create a realistic plan.

Transitions between care settings

When someone has a healthcare issue, they may need different levels of care at various times. For example, if a patient has an operation that requires rehabilitative care, then they may spend four days in a hospital before being transitioned to their home and outpatient rehabilitative care. Alternatively, they may need to be transitioned to an in-patient rehab center for several weeks to regain enough mobility or strength to return to their home.

Primary care providers can provide follow-up appointments and checkups after a patient is released from a hospital. They are pivotal in creating treatment plans that help patients manage ongoing health issues and others that may arise throughout treatment.

Patient and caregiver education

There may be many questions raised by patients during and after an illness or medical treatment. Primary care providers are there to answer any questions and concerns that arise at any time during treatment. Creating plans and finding resources for patients and caregivers is another role that primary care providers play.

For example, if a patient needs help with daily tasks, errands, meal prep, or finding resources to help them retrofit their home to help them remain independent, a primary care provider can help. They may assist patients in finding out if their insurance will pay for some of these necessities or put them in contact with social service agencies and other groups that help people with medical needs and age-related care.

Home health workers may be available to check in and help patients during a recovery period and possibly even after the initial recovery is complete. These services are often covered by insurance but a patient and their primary caregiver or loved one may not realize this or know how to access the help they need.

It is important that instructions for discharge and follow up care are followed precisely to ensure patients have the best chance at the most positive outcome. Sometimes the main reason care guidelines are not followed is simply misunderstanding or a patient deciding not to follow them for personal reasons. Other times, there may be no one watching over them to make sure they are sticking to the rules. Primary care providers can help patients stick to the plan and understand why it is so important.

Patients lifting more than they should after surgery or an injury is another common occurrence that can prolong recovery times significantly, for example. Making sure a patient has someone around to take care of lifting heavier things for them, when necessary, can prevent this. Primary care providers can also reiterate that breaking things down into smaller loads for a specific period of time makes sense for those that live alone or lack assistance.

Healthcare collaborations can involve many people

The more professionals involved, the more attention must be given to ensure that care is well organized and does not overlap. Primary care providers must go over plans and all the various treatments and records from all providers to check for any gaps or overlaps in treatments that may be concerning. This level of oversight prevents mistakes and ensures that patients are getting the care they need in the most efficient manner possible.

More primary caregivers are needed for future generations

There is a large population of aging adults who need more care than ever before. With more people living longer there are more people facing decades of managing chronic conditions and illnesses. Primary care providers are needed for their ongoing treatment plans and management of chronic conditions.

Preventative visits and regular screenings and tests based on a patient’s age are overlooked too often when there are not enough primary care providers. Making sure that patients make and keep preventative care appointments is critical to their health. It is far easier to treat or prevent a condition entirely if a patient receives their recommended checkups and health screenings. This is especially important after any major treatments or surgeries.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNPs) specialize in the care and health issues of older adults. Although nurse practitioners that choose this specialization may work primarily with older adults, if they work at a family practice they may still see some younger patients.

The care of older adults is geared more towards diagnosing and managing chronic conditions and treating common health issues like colds and flu with the challenges of the older adult in mind. For example, an older adult may have more conditions that make their immune system compromised so it is harder for them to recover from the flu than someone younger. Adult gerontologists are skilled at knowing and treating age-related health deterioration of the mind and body.

Transition to assisted living and nursing homes

Sometimes primary care providers make the decision to transition a patient to assisted living or nursing care facilities. This is a very hard decision to make, and it usually involves the family members of a patient. If the patient is unable to make their own decisions, then their healthcare power of attorney or even their doctor may be given authority to make the decision for them to enter a nursing home facility.

There is a big difference between assisted living and full-time nursing care. Some people find that they just need enough help to live at home with services like housekeeping and meals prepared for them. They may even maintain some level of employment or continue to drive for some time. Primary care providers can help patients understand the differences in levels of care and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of various living situations.

Locating care facilities that are within the financial means of a patient can be challenging in some cases. Primary care providers can help patients connect with resources that can help them find ways to pay for assisted living and care too.

Mental and physical health collaboration

One way that primary care providers regularly collaborate is through mental and physical health. There is a major connection between mental health and physical health. Mental disorders can lead to patients neglecting their physical health. Substance abuse can have lasting effects on a patient’s body, especially if there is a long history of drug or alcohol abuse, for example.

Physical health in turn can lead to mental disorders. Having a physical illness or chronic condition can lead to depression, anxiety, or reliance on substances to cope.

Primary care providers can connect patients with mental health experts and counselors, rehabilitation centers, and more. A primary care provider can help patients manage mental health in conjunction with a certified mental health counselor or psychiatrist.

When a patient presents with both physical and mental issues, it is very important that care is taken when prescribing medications or treatments so there is minimal risk of conflict or interactions that are harmful.

Some nurse practitioners specialize in psychiatric mental health so they may play a larger role in mental and physical care combined.

Nurse practitioners can close the gaps in primary care

Online primary care nurse practitioner programs are available for those who want to take the next step in their nursing career. For example, a practicing Registered Nurse (RN) who wants to take a  clinical and diagnostic perspective to caring for patients will find that an online program is exactly what they need to build skills, experience and confidence in the role. Wilkes University offers online nurse practitioner programs for those that have a Master’s degree in nursing and an RN license in good standing. In 12-18 months, RNs can qualify as nurse practitioners in their chosen specialty including AGNP, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP).

While clinical hours are required, nurses can pursue certification while keeping their current healthcare job. Nurses may even be able to do their clinical placements at the healthcare facility they currently work at, thus saving time and the hassle of distant commutes.

Primary care providers make the world a better place

When communities have better healthcare that is easy to access, they are healthier and more productive. It is critical that nurse practitioners and other highly skilled professionals take a larger role in providing the basic levels of preventive and routine care to patients from all backgrounds.

Community health clinics and urgent care centers employing nurse practitioners can help people get care when they do not have a regular doctor or care provider. This prevents people from putting off care and more serious health issues arising as a result.

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