Emergency room, urgent care or primary care?
Why preventive medicine can mitigate emergency and urgent care visits
We have all heard the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is better than a cure.” Our bodies are always speaking to us. Whether we have a sore throat, persistent chest pain that we write off as heart burn, or nagging back pain that we ignore, all of these are signs of impending health issues. But, what happens when you ignore these subtle cues and you find yourself sitting in an urgent care center – or even worse -- in an emergency room receiving acute care?
“I was having sharp chest pains and shortness of breath. I ended up in the ER at Loretto,” said Pauline Relerford, a 67 year-old primary care patient at Loretto. “I ended up being hospitalized and was treated for my lungs,” she said.
Relerford was diagnosed with pneumonia. Each year about 1 million people have to seek acute care in a hospital or urgent care facility due to pneumonia, but about 50,000 people die from it. Although pneumonia can come on suddenly (sometimes in 24-48 hours), often times there are subtle warning signs before it fully manifests. That is when primary care providers can be helpful.
For most people, a primary care provider is just a generalist. However generic their role may seem to us, primary care providers are key to promoting health, wellness and education to patients. They can diagnose a potentially life-threatening health issue before it gets out of hand. Most importantly, primary care providers are part of an expert team responsible for screening for health-related conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and more. Many of these underlying diseases are some of the reasons why people find themselves in an urgent care facility or an emergency room treating a heart attack, stroke, or a viral infection gone wild like pneumonia. If caught in the early stages many of these diseases can be treated and even prevented.
Now under the close watch of Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi, chief clinical officer and primary care provider at The Loretto Hospital, Relerford is receiving continuum of care by Loretto’s team of specialists and experiencing better health outcomes.
“My blood pressure is good now. I no longer have issues breathing. I’m doing much better” under Dr. Juvvadi’s care, Relerford said.
Dr. Juvvadi says hospitals like Loretto are moving from an inpatient model to an outpatient model. The goal for this transition is to improve health outcomes by reinforcing the importance of people opting into preventive services such as immunizations and screening for chronic illnesses to which people may be predisposed.
“It’s not that we do not want to take care of patients who have to be admitted into the hospital, but we are trying to prevent patients from having to go to the hospital in the first place,” Dr. Juvvadi said.
According to a Modern Healthcare article, some of the primary reasons why hospitals are moving in favor of outpatient care is because of the push for prevention, patient preference and advances in technology such as minimally invasive procedures that allow patients to heal sooner at home.
Ultimately, as primary care physicians, our goal is to “help patients implement complete lifestyle changes” that will improve their health in the long run, Dr. Juvvadi said. “It’s also about the relationships that we form with our patients” so that we understand their needs and can thereby “customize their care with the right team of specialists”, she said.
Loretto Hospital’s Primary Care Providers are highly trained doctors and advanced nurse practitioners who take the time to get to know each patient to offer best individualized care and treatment.
“We are not going to just give you a lot of medication to treat these illnesses and send you on your way. We will get to the root cause of your issues, including your mental health, so that you can live better. We want to make sure our patients don’t get sick. That’s the goal,” she said.
When asked about the care she is receiving at The Loretto Hospital, Relerford responded: “They get down to the point of the problem. I’ve been coming here for a year now. My health is improving. There is nothing but good things to say about The Loretto Hospital. They are doing good things.”
For more information about The Loretto Hospital’s Primary Care Services, call 773-854-5475.