Ep. 4: Understand How to Use 3 Distinct Healthcare Levels
This episode of the Dr. Momma Podcast addresses the need to understand how to use 3 different healthcare levels within the healthcare system.
One of my early blog posts addresses this topic, but I wanted to talk about it in a bit more detail for those you who have not read it. It is VERY important information and is apparently not common knowledge. I seem to regularly need to share this information with my patients in my private practice.
Now before you get all excited about what I am going to discuss, I am not talking about how to navigate the complex administrative parts of healthcare. There are many tidbits of information that are needed to understand what kind of insurance to buy, what your insurance covers and tips that can save you money. I am not addressing any of that. If you want those helpful tips, I suggest you check out a fellow physician blogger who writes on these subjects.
Also, I need you to understand that other physicians may have a different take on the subject discussed today, but I think what I am sharing is a great starting place. If your physician has given you other information, of course, you use that!
But as with every parenting topic that I discuss, I think healthcare topics should ALSO have a plan. Some initial plan on what to do. Any plan is better than no plan!
What am I talking about? Well, in general, I view medical care as 3 distinct healthcare levels. There can be overlap, but as you or your child gets sick, you might want to think about what kind of care is needed.
Understanding How to Use 3 Distinct Healthcare Levels
Category 1: Home care
In my blog post, I call this category Momma Medicine. Why? Because I am a pediatric physician and over 90% of kids are brought to my office by their moms. And as a mom myself, I understand the first of the healthcare levels actually starts with recognizing that something is wrong and deciding I need to do something.
That’s right! YOU are part of the healthcare team.
This level of care begins once parents decide that there is a problem that needs addressing. Not the level of needing a healthcare professional to step in, but a level that you need to use your favorite remedies.
What you do at home is important to physicians. If you end up seeing a physician, they will ask what you did and how long you did it.
Many illnesses stop at this level. So go ahead and stock up on your favorite home care remedies.
Category 2: Primary care
By this, I mean that you are taking your child to their pediatrician or you are going to your family physician. I cannot emphasize enough how much I feel people need to rely on great primary care.
These physicians are the glue that holds all the health problems together. No matter how many specialists you see, your primary care physician should be the all-seeing and all-knowing healthcare professional in your life.
In this category, I also include urgent care physicians and emergency room visits because these are often needed after hours when you can’t get to your real primary care doctor.
One of my podcasts delves deeper into my concern about the overuse of urgent care and walk-in clinics. There are consequences that you need to be aware of if you choose to have frequent care in these healthcare facilities instead of your primary care offices.
Category 3: The Specialist Physician
Like me! Why do I separate this category? Because specialists are seen after a problem is deemed more complex or more recurrent or more severe or more…something that a physician with advanced training in this one area may need to look at.
Without the need to focus on the many other possible issues that primary care physicians do, specialists can just zero in on our field. It is important for us that our patients are well managed by primary care physicians.
Be sure to check out the podcast as I delve deeper into each of these healthcare levels and give examples of how they are used correctly, and how they are used incorrectly.
Bottom line, I love my primary care physician colleagues! They make my job so much clearer. I can understand their thought process and plan of action and I know exactly how I can help. By short-circuiting the system with repeated urgent care visits, you are missing out on valuable healthcare discussions and planning.
Dr. Burton’s summary
I recommend you stick with the basics:
Step 1: Treat things at home, if not better, then
Step 2: Go see your local Doc Welby or Dr. Quinn, medicine woman, and try your best to get a treatment plan that avoids the need for a specialist visit.
Step 3: I am here, as well as all special physicians if you need me, but the goal should be a healthcare loop that skips specialists!
Now go out and have a happy healthy life. AND try NOT to glance over at all those urgent care centers you pass on your daily drives. Remember that all urgent care and walk-in clinics are not all created equal.
Your healthcare line of sight should be laser-focused on your primary care office unless a truly urgent visit is needed. But that visit should just be a pit stop on your way to your primary care.
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These are such useful tips on how to handle the health care system with a little one. As a new mom, I can definitely be overwhelmed by all the doctors and different levels, I’ll definitely be following your advice.
Yay! This is exactly what I am hoping for. Helping new parents to understand how to navigate the system and how different visits have different purposes.
This is good to keep in mind. I always want to have good healthcare. I didn’t know about the different levels.
Yes, it is increasingly common for people to think that going to a doctor is the same, no matter who you see and under what circumstances. They are different and it is good to understand why.
I personally believe that home care is the most important and when done properly can help avoid other levels.
Yes, we all do home care but if it doesn’t work, I hope the next option is your primary care instead of the convenient nearby urgent care center.
It’s great to know the levels of health care. I have never known this system before.
I am happy that I could share this information!
It is important for us as moms to understand that we don’t have to run to the ER for everything! Some things can be handled at home, then escalated to higher levels when truly needed.
Absolutely. Care should start at home so that problems can be fixed or at least buy time until you can make an appointment with the pediatrician. The ER and Urgent care should be last resorts, not first options.
Having five kids has left me with doing home care first. Then I contact dr google to see if I need to do a dr video chat.
I definitely agree with lots of home care, which includes Doctor Google. But I do not recommend that the next line be the video chat or urgent care. It should be a planned visit to a physician who knows you and your child and can continue evaluations instead of giving a quick fix. Home care is the quick fix. The primary care is a bigger picture evaluation.
Home care is a great alternative to other methods. Staying stocked up on all of our favorite remedies is something I try to stay on top of. This is a very helpful post on healthcare levels.
Indeed we should all have our favorite methods at home to start treating as soon as we see a problem. Many times this avoids the need for physician visits.
These are some great tips, I have to admit I am awful for not going to the doctors when I should and trying to do things myself.
If home care fixes the issue, there is no real reason to see a physician. That means it worked! I just want to share the concept of going to an established primary care as the next line, instead of using a convenient urgent care which often just does a quick fix and not evaluates the deeper issue.
Always a great idea to try to treat at home, then primary care, then specialist. My poor grandfather had so many specialists that he actually developed more complications from one specialist not knowing what the other was doing.
This is also a great concern. Too many urgent care visit OR too many specialist visits and not enough primary care visits. Specialists are really designed to just look at our field. We send notes back to the primary care who is tasked with monitoring what specialists do. Too many times, all care is given to specialists and there is not a captain of the ship.
I am so bad about check ups. I started a new job over a year ago and still don’t know my primary doctor. I guess I’ll go ahead and get that set up now. Better safe than sorry.
It is good to at least know who your primary care is in case you need her/him. Many people end up using urgent care because they never established a primary care.
This is such an informative and helpful post. When I was a new mum, I found that I was rushing in and out of hospital for the slightest little discomfort my little one had. Now that they are a little grown, I try as much to keep them at home unless very necessary.
Yes, as new moms, we were all anxious. Home care is best but if things don’t improve, it would be great to be able to see primary care who knows your kids and has their records, instead of a quick urgent care visit for things that are not serious.
I say yes to home care especially when any diseases is not yet complex and one is trying to heal as soon. We usually prepare a lot of home-made herbs for small sicknesses and it actually works.Anyway,. I love the order; first home care, them primary before going top the specialized care.
Many of us have special home-made remedies! If they work, you keep going. It is just good to have a known primary care physician in case you need one.
I don’t have children but healthcare can be so tricky. I know a lot of people will benefit from this post.
Yes, this information applies to all of us. As I have gotten older, I am using the healthcare system a whole lot more!
Very informative article. Thanks for sharing!
I love to share information. Glad you found something you liked.
Wonderful information, since we will be soon taking care of an elderly family member, this is very handy.
Indeed it is. Always keep in mind the primary care should be the captain, especially since many illnesses will require specialists. The specialists will mostly just focus on their area and a more comprehensive review is periodically needed by the primary physician.
Great post. I didn’t think about all the levels. Very informative post, thanks!
Yes, I think it is helpful to consider what type of care is needed and to be sure efforts were made before progressing to the next level.
Our current healthcare system is so darn hard to navigate! I’m sharing this with my husband and parents. We were just discussing this the other day. My mother usually wants to bypass her primary care physician and go straight to a specialist. Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information.
Every day I have people who come to me and skip their primary care. It is not a good idea because specialists do not tend to look at the big picture. We see and treat our area but that may not be the only issue. Never skip primary care and always review progress with them as well!
This was really interesting and informative, I think I almost always try to treat situations at home first, But if I feel it’s important to see a specialist, I won’t waste any time in going.
I guess my intention is to say that many people feel they need a specialist but actually are not at that level. If home care works, it is best to see primary care to determine if specialty care is needed. Sometimes, choosing the wrong specialist, or coming too soon actually slows things down!
Great tips for helping to navigate the healthcare system, thank you so much! I usually try to fix things myself and use home made remedies (and time) to fix things. Occasionally I need a specialist (torn miniscus) but I usually wait much longer than I should to get there!
As a specialist myself, I understand that people need us on a regular basis. But before getting to us, you are seen by primary care or in your case, possibly the emergency room physician. We are here to help when it is our time. It is great to be able to handle things at home.
What a cool post! I learned a ton on things I never knew. This post really helped. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
That’s awesome. My goal is to spread this understanding so feel free to share with others. It impacts us all.
Thanks for sharing this. I always make it a point to do these steps. Because, as much as possible I avoid getting a specialist. Because I know it will cost me more.
Yes, indeed it does. But many people do not think about the ultimate costs but think about convenience right now.
This was so informative! Ive kind of been following the order already, simply because my deductible is so high! I try to treat everything at home as best as I can, and then follow up with PCP or urgent care as a last resort!
You are doing it perfectly so keep on doing it. Having a plan is key.
The healthcare system can be so confusing! This is some great advice. I’m also glad I have my husband to help navigate!
I work in healthcare and it can be confusing to me as well. I am happy to share tips which may be useful to your family.