What to consider when choosing a primary care doctor.

How to choose a primary care doctor.

Katherine Bumstead, M.D., is a family medicine physician practicing at Providence Medical Group Harbour Point Clinic.

Discover the benefits of a long-term relationship with your health care physician.

So many of us live transitory lives today, moving from place to place and changing jobs more often than ever before. With this lifestyle can come more fragmented health care. But when it’s possible, establishing a long-term, personal relationship with a trusted health care physician may be one of the best things we can do for our overall health.

Someone who knows you

Katherine Bumstead, M.D., is a family medicine physician practicing at Providence Medical Group Harbour Pointe Clinic. She says primary care physicians can serve as a sort of quarterback; an advisor who pays attention to the physical, mental, and social aspects of a person’s life and puts all the pieces together.

Dr. Bumstead says she has many patients – including multiple members of the same family – who have been in her care for a decade or longer. “When you find a connection with one health care physician and their team, and continue to build that relationship over time, both sides benefit. We can have a more in depth understanding of the patient’s ongoing health concerns and recommend more comprehensive care. This familiarity leads to better-informed advice and treatment.”

A solid foundation

Dr. Bumstead says annual visits are essential. “In my years of practice, there have been many times we’ve identified serious health conditions at a routine, annual visit or wellness exam – sometimes before the patient recognized any symptoms. In medicine, there are many conditions we can treat very successfully if we find and diagnose them early.” She offers examples: High blood pressure is “silent” until it becomes severe or starts causing other health issues but is easy to spot during the intake at a routine visit. In addition, recommended age- and risk-appropriate screenings can prevent or cure serious illness, such as a Pap smear to detect pre-cancerous changes in a woman’s cervix, bloodwork to identify pre-diabetes, heart screening to detect AFib or other irregularities, mammograms for early detection of breast cancer, and colonoscopy to find pre-cancerous polyps.

An ongoing relationship with one physician or primary care clinician improves ongoing and thorough monitoring of chronic conditions – another essential factor for maintaining good health. If a patient experiences a life-changing health event, such as a heart attack, stroke, or severe infection, a trusted and familiar physician can be their very best advocate.

Accessing care at your home clinic

Dr. Bumstead works in a very busy practice; even so, same-day appointments are often available. If your established physician can’t see you right away, a nurse practitioner or physician assistant on their team (who can access your history and communicate visit details with your primary physician) may be able to get you in more quickly. You may also be able to connect with your provider via a virtual visit; learn more about this option at providence.org/lp/virtual-care-options.

The bottom line? “Studies show that people do better when they feel cared for, and they’re more likely to follow medical advice when it’s well explained,” Dr. Bumstead says. “Once you find a physician who feels like a partner in your health, keep them on your team.”

Providence Medical Group clinics offer extended hours, including appointments up to 7 p.m. at least one day a week and some Saturdays, to help make scheduling your visit as convenient as possible. To find a physician near you, visit providence.org.