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Primary Care Physician Loyalty Could “Pay” Out

Primary Care PhysicianWhen it comes to your healthcare costs, few things are more expensive than a single trip to the emergency room. From the copays to the diagnostics to the actual few minutes you get to spend with a doctor, those hours in the ER can equate to a pretty big chunk out of the checking account. But if you’ve got a primary care physician that you’re loyal to, there’s reason to celebrate: you’re much less likely to take a trip to the emergency room.

According to a recent study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, patients who consistently saw the same primary care doctor were 2.1 percent less likely to visit the ER and 1.7 percent less likely to be hospitalized than patients who saw multiple providers throughout the year.

What’s the difference? Opinions vary, but many experts believe that by seeing a primary care provider regularly, that doctor is more familiar with your medical history and chronic or complex conditions, and therefore have the ability to offer a more comprehensive treatment or wellness plan. That could in turn lead to fewer “emergency” health situations.

The study was conducted by analyzing data from more than 49,000 low-income, previously uninsured adult doctor’s visits from 2008 to 2010.

While emergency room visits currently make up only 2 percent of the nation’s healthcare spending, that’s still a big chunk of change. In 2008, emergency room services billed added up to $47.3 billion – comprising 136.3 million trips to the emergency room.

Medicaid patients were found more likely to visit the emergency room, according to the study, than those privately insured or uninsured. In fact, among Medicaid patients, one in four children and two in five adults under 65 visited the ER at least once in a calendar year.

Finding a primary care physician you trust can be a daunting task, but there is certainly reason to do so; after all, who wants to spend their time (and money!) on the emergency room?

Your turn: How do you find a good doctor?

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