VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Bon Secours primary care offices are ready to serve patients in the age of COVID-19, from chairs that are spaced six feet apart inside the waiting room to social distancing markers outside.
The only problem is getting people to visit their primary care provider. The decreased trend is something that’s especially concerning in a pandemic that disproportionately affects Black, Latin and Native American communities.
Rachelle D’Angelo is a nurse practitioner who works in family and internal medicine at Bon Secours.
“Primary care is something that so many people often don’t have access to and those are generally the underserved populations and they need it the most,” she said.
According to D’Angelo, the number of people who have a primary care provider is dropping as urgent care options expand, lives get busier and visits are only made when patients are sick.
“I think part of that stems from the world we’re living in with regard to everyone wanting everything done yesterday,” she said. “An urgent care is a much quicker fix, because you don’t need an appointment; you can walk in right away; you get to see someone right away; they fix your problem and that’s it. You’re on your way versus having a PCP where you might have to wait a day or two to schedule. They say well, I don’t want to wait, I want to go now and that’s where that lack of follow up comes in.”
Primary care professionals are typically a patient’s first line of defense. They’re often the first to notice signs of depression, cancer and other health concerns before they become serious.
“PCPs are like the quarterback on the team,” said D’Angelo. “You’re the safety net making sure everything gets done and everything gets followed up on….We have the opportunity for much earlier detection of disease and protection – anything from blood pressure to malignancy to lung disease, all of those things can be caught a lot earlier.”
Regular check-ups and screenings can help us live longer and feel better.
Statistics show Americans who have a primary care doctor have 19 percent lower odds of premature death than those who only see specialists.
“See your primary care provider regularly,” D’Angelo said. “You never know. Going to do that might save your life one day.”
To find a primary care provider in your network, check with your insurance company.