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Primary Care Physicians: Now More Than Ever

Primary Care Physicians: Now More Than Ever

Written by John Ferrari

You’re in good health – why not stay that way? Normally, annual check-ups with your primary care physician are a key way to maintain your health, as a way to monitor any health issues you may have and to identify (and treat) any new health issues quickly. But during a pandemic? While some patients may still feel cautious about going to a medical facility, rest assured your primary care physician can see you in a safe and protected manner.

Primary care physicians, or PCPs, are “residency-trained physicians in the fields of pediatrics, general internal medicine and family medicine,” explains Torrance Memorial Physician Network Medical Director Dr. Robert N. Glazer. “We provide a broad range of both acute and chronic care management of physical and emotional conditions for people of every age. In addition, nurse practitioners and physician assistants often work alongside PCPs to provide primary care. For a patient we are often the initial point of entry into the highly complex world of the American health care system. With the COVID-19 pandemic still at hand, there has never been a more important time to have a PCP.

“Having access to a primary care physician means getting care early, and often, in chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart and lung disease, and mitigating later complications,” Dr. Glazer adds. “Equally as important is catching problems before complications manifest in the first place.”

PCPs act as health care coordinators, helping their patients access specialty care. “If you ask yourself, ‘Do I need a urologist or a neurologist?’ wouldn’t it be better for a primary care specialist to assist with that decision? Also, even if you are healthy and feel fine, PCPs help you stay that way with preventative care and screening.”

After patients admitted to a hospital for a treatment or surgical procedure have returned home, PCPs monitor their condition and recovery. What is the result of the PCPs’ beginning-to-end involvement in patient care? According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, patients with a PCP had better high-value care – including cancer screenings, vaccine rates, chronic disease management and lifestyle management – and higher overall satisfaction with their medical care than patients who did not have a PCP. But what about now? With the virus causing COVID-19 still circulating, is it considered safe to visit your PCP?

In a word, yes. Although elective visits were canceled or postponed during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, Dr. Glazer is confident medical facilities now have measures in place to prevent transmission of the disease, and he is comfortable recommending people visit their PCP for regular appointments. “Our offices have taken measures to ensure both patient and medical staff safety, such as taking temperatures upon entering an office, and limiting the number of people in the reception, waiting and patient examination areas. All health care staff and patients must wear masks, and exam rooms are disinfected after each patient leaves.” It is very important not to delay care. Putting off preventative visits for existing conditions can be unhealthy, Dr. Glazer notes. Torrance Memorial’s outpatient centers are following recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and the medical center’s own infectious disease specialists.

In-person visits aren’t the only option for medical appointments either. Torrance Memorial Physician Network is also offering virtual online visits. This alternative, known as Telehealth, can be used to address “most chronic health conditions and some acute ones,” Dr. Glazer says. “Nothing can truly take the place of the face-to-face visit, but this has demonstrated to be an excellent substitute. We are using Telehealth to complete the very important Medicare Senior Annual Wellness Exams – even by telephone for those without WiFi. My mental health colleagues report Telehealth is well-suited for their sessions in lieu of face-to-face visits.”

Telehealth has its limits though, and Dr. Glazer recommends in-person appointments for annual screenings, mammograms, colonoscopies and other procedures, and in cases where a patient has been injured or is in pain, is having potential cardiac or neurological symptoms, or can’t articulate his or her symptoms (for example, young children). “By using Telehealth for most other visits, we can practice distancing and other hygienic policies by keeping a low volume of people in the offices.” 

Robert N. Glazer, MD, is the Torrance Memorial Physician Network Medical Director at 3333 Skypark Dr, Ste. 100 in Torrance. He can be reached at (310) 784-6300. Several Torrance Memorial Physician Network physicians are accepting new patients. Contact our Physician Referral Coordinators for general questions and/or for patients needing assistance finding a doctor at (310) 891-6717.