Monday, December 22, 2014

Health experts stress primary care doctor is best for minor ailments

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Those television and radio advertisements meant to steer patients with minor ailments from the emergency room are working. But- it's also created another concern. Urgent Care locations in Upstate New York have seen a 50% increase in visits for thing like sore throats and earaches.

Experts say that is probably not the best option for many patients. "Studies show that about 40% of ER visits are unnecessary," said Frank Debeck, Chief Medical Officer for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield. "They can be handled elsewhere- probably quicker, cheaper and better."

The campaign was launched last year by Excellus BCBS and the Medical Societies of Herkimer and Oneida Counties. "What we saw was a marked increase in Urgent Care visits," said Dubeck. "What we didn't see was an increase in primary care visits. They were flat too, so people are going to Urgent Care rather than to their PCP."

Dubeck says if you've had to wait too long in the past to see your doctor, try calling again. "What we find is patients are so used to not being able to get into their primary care same day because they are booked for two to three weeks or six months sometimes that they give up calling." said Dubeck. "So it's a bit of a public education to say, you know, if you think you need something, try your doctor first."

Dubeck says many doctors have changed the way they schedule patients, leaving a few appointments open for emergencies.

Still many younger people don't have a doctor to call. "Under 40, people feel like they don't need a doctor and so they don't have a relationship with a physicians office," said Dubeck. "So when they get an acute illness, they, in the past ran to the ER, and now we're saying run to urgent care instead. The best way is to have a primary care physician."

"By far and away, a person who knows you who knows your history, has your record is in a much better position to make the right decision for you in terms of an acute illness," said Dubeck.