How a Good Primary Care Physician Can Help You with Chronic Care Management
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the U.S. in the second half of 2020, people, especially those with chronic health conditions, are anxious about their doctor visits because of potential infection risks during a visit to the doctor’s office. What options are available for chronic care management during the pandemic even with their potential risks of community transmission? In this article, we discuss how the novel coronavirus affects people with chronic conditions, and how a good primary care physician can help with chronic care diagnosis and management amidst the pandemic.
What are Chronic Diseases?
The CDC defines chronic diseases as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.They can be controlled with proper treatment, but not cured. Some chronic conditions are:
Some chronic conditions include:
• High Blood Pressure
• Heart Disease and Stroke
• Alzheimer’s Disease
• Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)
Chronic diseases are typically caused by genetic, geriatric, and key risk behaviors, such as:
• Lack of physical activity
• Poor nutrition (Diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in saturated fats and sodium)
• Excessive alcohol use
• Excessive tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 adults have two or more. (Source: CDC)
Chronic diseases are typically caused by genetic, geriatric, and key risk behaviors, such as lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol use, excessive tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
How to keep seeing your healthcare team for Chronic Care Management during COVID-19
Taking care of chronic conditions is even more critical now as the coronavirus pandemic raises health risks for people with chronic and underlying medical problems. If you have chronic medical conditions and become infected with the coronavirus, you may face an increased risk of developing severe symptoms.
Managing chronic conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic is more challenging. It requires readjusting your daily routines and dealing with new challenges in chronic care management.
One challenge is doctor appointments. It’s a valid concern as many people suffering from chronic diseases require regular checkups with their primary care doctor but worry about the potential risks of community transmission. Please remember that your primary doctor is still accessible to you during the crisis.
Primary Care Practitioner and the Chronic Care Model
A critical discussion point to be had with your healthcare provider is to check if they follow Chronic Disease Models, such as the Chronic Care Model (CCM).
The CCM is an organizational approach to caring for people suffering from chronic disease in a primary care setting. It is one of the best known and most influential chronic care management models that focus on linking informed patients with proactive and prepared healthcare teams. A well-equipped primary care provider should have an organized health system linked with the necessary resources in the community.
Some benefits of the chronic care program management include:
• Reducing unnecessary and expensive emergency department visits and hospital admissions.
• Creating a customized care plan charting your health goals with specific action steps to achieve them.
• Receiving additional support apart from your office visits.
Check with your healthcare provider if they offer uninterrupted chronic care management services during the pandemic. As per the CCM program, primary care teams will spend an allotted time every month for your chronic conditions and coordinate the health care you get from their practice or another doctor’s office, at the pharmacy, in your home, or from a community service organization, such as your church-based support groups, community health programs, and clinic-based support groups.
The CCM also facilitates exchange of information between the provider and the patient and promotes self-management through patient education, setting up of mutual goals, and lifestyle behavior changes, thus equipping patients with the tools to be proactive about their conditions even during the pandemic.
Community Participation and Education
Beyond individual health management through chronic care programs, physicians can also actively support communities’ health through spreading awareness and establishing how patients with chronic conditions are among the most vulnerable groups to the COVID-19 disease and how its impact can be reduced with effective chronic care management. Physicians can use the power of social media, webinars, and other digital channels to convey the latest health updates and credible information regarding chronic conditions during the pandemic to the wider community. Email marketing can be utilized to spread timely information, updates, and reminders to subscribers.
Primary care providers can continue managing chronic conditions of patients via telehealth, including video, phone, and other cellular devices to monitor patient conditions as an alternative to in-person visits. As a patient with chronic conditions, you must continue to schedule regular consultations with your primary care doctor to monitor closely your health, be it via in-person visit, if your primary care allows it, or via televisits.
While it’s best to discuss your treatment plan with your primary care doctor, here are some self-management tips and preventive management of the condition.
5 Tips on how to stay healthy with chronic care conditions
Below are some preventive tips to actively manage your chronic health conditions and improve your quality of life during the pandemic:
• Stay on a healthy diet: Diet is often one of the major adjustments needed to manage your chronic condition. Creating a daily food schedule helps to maintain your diet during these times.
• Get regular physical activity: Even in the pandemic, try to aim for moderate physical activity such as at least 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes a day.
• Limit alcohol and tobacco use: Excessive drinking and smoking can lead to chronic conditions with time. Take the first step and call your doctor for an expert consultation on managing your lifestyle habits.
• Get Enough Sleep: Insufficient sleep is linked to the development and poor management of chronic conditions. You should get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
• Know Your Family History: If you have a family history of chronic disease, you may be more likely to develop it. Share your family health history with your primary care physician who can help you prevent these conditions. The only way to catch them early is to get a screening test.
The COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly stressful for patients with chronic conditions. But it needn’t be so if you continue keeping your health as the foremost priority. You can always schedule regular doctor appointments, even in these challenging times. A good primary care doctor will continuously monitor your health and continue chronic care management services amid the pandemic. They are just a click away, and you can opt for telephone or video consultations.
* We routinely draw upon public health resources to inform our write-ups. Information in this article may be drawn up from multiple public health sources, including:
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- American Medical Association
- American Association of Family Physicians
- National Center for Biotechnology Information
Get blog posts like these and other tips and resources along with local wellness events in your area, right in your inbox. Subscribe to the Wellistic Newsletter!