Julia Rittenhouse

Dr. Julia Rittenhouse of AdventHealth Family Medicine at Owasa talks with a patient.

In an increasingly complex medical world, having one doctor who knows your health history has become highly important.

Researchers at the journal Health Affairs found that patients who have a primary care provider benefit from better management of chronic diseases, lower overall health care costs and a higher level of satisfaction with their care.

“Most people only think about seeing a doctor when they are sick, but it’s important to have regular visits with a primary care physician you know and trust to best manage your health,” said Julia Rittenhouse, MD, of AdventHealth Medical Group Family Medicine at Owasa.

Here are the five most important ways building a relationship with a primary care provider can improve health care for you and your family.

1. Continuity: Having a single physician who has seen you for everything from bellyaches to immunizations to blood pressure control means having a health resource who knows your history. When you have an appointment, you don’t have to explain that there’s heart disease in your family or list the medications you’re taking and in what doses — it’s all in your medical record already.

2. Convenience: Within a primary care practice, you can assess a wide variety of health services: preventative care and screenings; care for chronic conditions such as asthma, hypertension and diabetes; and acute care for problems like coughs and high fever.

3. Health maintenance: Your primary care doctor can help you avoid health problems. Based on the doctor’s examination and your medical history, he or she can determine whether you’re at increased risk for conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and then help you take steps to prevent them from developing.

4. Early detection: Regular checkups and contact with a single physician make it more likely that any health issues will be detected early when they’re most treatable.

5. Better communication: When patients know their physician and the office staff, visits are less stressful and more productive. It’s easier to talk about sensitive issues with someone you know in a familiar setting than with a stranger in a strange place.

Primary care prep

Unfortunately, we often let hurry, worry or embarrassment keep us from getting what we need from a physician visit. So how can you maximize one-on-one time with your doctor? Try these tips:

♦ Make a list. Before your appointment, jot down the two or three things you want to ask the doctor.

♦ Be specific. Be prepared to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible. If you’re having knee pain, for example, explain what it feels like and when it occurs. Is it sharp or dull? Is it constant or does it come and go?

♦ Get medicines checked. If you take several medications that have been prescribed by different doctors, bring a medication list or bring the pill bottles with you.

♦ Speak up promptly. Don’t leave your biggest worry for the end of the visit. Mention major concerns early to be sure there’s time to answer your questions.

♦ Don’t try to be your own doctor. It’s good to do research, but resist jumping to conclusions about your condition.

♦ Summarize. Before the doctor leaves the room, ask for the opportunity to repeat back the main things you learned during your visit to help ensure you understood everything fully.

“It’s easy to forget about finding time to see a doctor with the busyness of everyday life, but the relationship you build with your primary care physician is one of the most important relationships you will have,” said Rittenhouse. “Having a physician you can rely on will lead to less health complications for you and your family.”

If you are in need of a primary care provider, Rittenhouse is accepting patients. To schedule an appointment, call AdventHealth Medical Group Family Medicine at Owasa at 706-625-0333 or visit AdventHealthGordon.com/primarycare to see the AdventHealth network of primary care providers.