You are more than the sum of your diseases, so it’s important to find a doctor willing to take care of the “whole” you. Human beings are complicated, medications are becoming more complex and don’t get me started on how difficult the health care system is to figure out!

As a transplant patient and also a care manager to a ailing family members, I’ve had many turns personally at the other side of the stethoscope and this is what I’ve learned.

A good primary care doctor and clinic are worth their weight in gold… and probably even more. Consider this: according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four American adults is dealing with two or more chronic conditions.

Today we live in a “take a pill,” “do a procedure,” “quicker fixer-upper” or “trade-it-in” kind of society. That doesn’t work with chronic disease. With chronic disease comes medications and potential drug interactions. Included with chronic disease are the diagnoses of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain disorders, all of which decrease the patient’s quality of life.

There’s no quick fix for chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and obesity, to name a few. It takes a care plan built on trust, compassion, lifestyle modifications and listening. A doctor’s visit like that doesn’t last four minutes. Instead, a good doctor works closely with care coordinators and pharmacists to ensure that as your drug list becomes more complex as you age, your team has your back. Instead of just adding another medication to the list they rethink the entire drug list to make sure it’s the more effective combination for the “whole” you.

It’s easy for a doctor to see a patient, make a diagnosis, write a prescription, order a test, etc. It’s an entirely different thing for the doctor to know if you:

  • can read
  • can afford your medication
  • can easily swallow pills
  • are allergic to penicillin
  • are claustrophobic for an MRI
  • understand your medications
  • are still grieving the loss of your spouse of 40 years
  • can truly hear what was said in the exam room or were just being polite when you repeatedly nodded in agreement
  • are near homelessness and unable to get any of your medications
  • just lost your job
  • drink too much
  • are not safe at home
  • can’t read the medication bottles because you can’t afford new glasses
  • are contemplating suicide
  • can’t take any action yet because you are paralyzed by the word “cancer.”

This approach can add more good years to your life and absolutely aligns with my personal beliefs and the reasons I went into medicine to begin with. My suggestion to you is to find a doctor interested in the gold standard: treating the “whole” you!

By Dr. Joann Schaefer, chief medical officer and senior vice president at BCBSNE