A reader question:
One thing I would like to see answered on your blog is, what do you do on a first visit? Especially if you're not sick?When someone shows up in Doctor D's exam room with an advanced case of some truly nasty disease D will often ask them, “But why haven't you seen a doctor since the Clinton administration?” They always answer, “Because I haven't been sick, doc.”
Waiting till you get sick to see a doctor is like waiting till you're in the water to get a life jacket.
It is a common misconception that doctors save a lot of sick people. Only rarely do we “save” you after you are sick. Usually we hold off a disease which still gets you in the end, or your body heals itself (and we take the credit). The real lifesaving is in preventing diseases or catching them before you feel the first symptom:
First, we help you prevent or postpone serious illness:
Second, preventive visits can find serious problems before they cause trouble. Most people can't feel high sugar, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol until it is too late, but those things will kill ten times as many Americans as H1N1 this year. And some of the most common cancers can be caught with early screening—early enough to make a difference between surviving or not.
- Your doctor can review your genetic and lifestyle risks. What diseases are you more likely to get in the future? What can we do to prevent them?
- We can help with healthy diet, exercise, weight management, and avoiding things that will kill you (like cigarettes). Of course, everyone knows this stuff from highschool health class, but how many of us are really doing it? Even Doctor D needs his doctor to regularly remind him to eat right and exercise. It just isn't as easy to do it as Happy Hospitalist says.
- Get your shots. Doctors have probably saved more lives with vaccines than any other treatment ever invented. Seriously, at least talk to a doctor about it, even if an Oprah guest told you not to.
Remember these preventative things should still be done even if you already have a disease. People with chronic or frequent illnesses often understandably focus on what is giving them trouble. Don't be that guy that focuses so much on what is hurting, when the real thing that might kill you is hiding in plain sight!
So even if you aren't sick or you are seeing a specialist for something else, you really should see a Primary Care Doctor at least every year or two. We cover a lot in these visits.
Doctor D promises he is not trying to get you into get preventive care just to line his pockets. If he wanted to get rich Doctor D would have chosen just about any specialty other than primary care. He also wouldn't be spending all his off-time on this blog.
What is the longest you ever went without Primary Care? Do you think it affected your health? Doctor D would love to hear your experiences.