Primary care matters, plain and simple. Though in recent years it seems to be undervalued, primary care remains in fact a central part of everyone’s long-term health. How big of a role? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), areas with higher concentrations of primary care physicians are linked to lower death rates for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, while also leading to lower level of hospital admissions.
Primary care also helps lower the costs healthcare presents. In addition to fewer hospitalizations, there’s less duplication of treatment as well as better use of technology, all cumulating into 33% lower healthcare related costs.
Primary care reinforces the doctor-patient relationship allowing for a “continuity of care.” You’re able to establish a relationship and build upon it year after year while receiving tangible benefits like acute, chronic, and preventive care, along with a wide range of other services. R-Health’s Direct Care Model allows for this multi-faceted, consistent approach.
- Family Care – We’re able to see and treat family members of all ages. Having this continuity and trust allows the full scope of one’s health to put into context, especially how it may relate to the rest of the family. Having a strong relationship within the family helps the doctors with insight knowledge, given them understanding on health patterns that you may be facing, and can even save you from unnecessary tests.
- Unlimited Access – Having a doctor to take care of the family is great, unless they’re unavailable. That’s not a problem with R-Health’s Direct Care model due to the 24/7 unlimited access available for patients to their doctors. Phone calls, a secure mobile app, and a member portal are just a few of the ways you’re able to stay in contact with your doctor no matter where you’re at.
- Convenience – Not only are there no co-pays, but with the use of our data and technology systems, coupled with the care coordination, we remove the barriers to the doctors and our doctors help members navigate a complex health care system seamlessly.
Great primary care allows you to see the bigger picture. A doctor who can take care of all your needs, both long-term and short-term. And a model of healthcare that saves costs, but not at the expense of the doctor-patient relationship or the diverse health network that’s available.
Recognized every April, stress awareness is again a focal point this month. With such profound effect on the body, healthcare professionals across the country hope to spread awareness and also share some ways to better manage stress and overall well-being.
Everyone encounters stress from time to time, as it is a natural physical and mental reaction to experiences. While there are some beneficial elements to stress, if stress levels last longer than necessary, the toll it takes on your body can be detrimental. Healthline shared just how much impact lasting elevated levels stress has on your body’s systems.
Central nervous and endocrine systems
- When stressing, the brain releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that increase your heartrate, sending blood to areas of need such as muscles, heart, and other organs.
- If the stressor doesn’t go away it can severely affect the nervous system and develop behaviors such as overeating, alcohol and/or drug abuse, and social withdrawal.
Respiratory and cardiovascular systems
- During stress episodes, you breathe faster to distribute oxygen blood through your body more quickly. However, with conditions like asthma or emphysema, stress makes it even harder to breath.
- Stress also raises blood pressure which leaves you at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
- Under stress, your body produces more glucose to give your body more energy, however, too much can result in an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Stress also affects your digestive system by increasing your chance of heartburn and acid reflux due to increased stomach acid. In addition, since stress affects how food moves through your body, you may also experience diarrhea, constipation, or nausea.
- Muscles tense up when stressed in order to protect themselves from injury.
- If the muscles never get a chance to relax, tight muscles can cause headaches as well as back and shoulder pain and other long-term body aches.
- For men, chronic stress affects sperm production and may lead to impotence and risk of infection in the prostate and testes.
- For women, this stress can lead to irregular, heavier, and more painful menstrual cycles, or amplify the symptoms of menopause.
- Chronic stress leaves you more susceptible to illnesses influenza and the common cold, while prolonging your recovery time from illness or injury.
Here’s another detailed look of where stress affects the body.
Stress isn’t just a fast heartbeat, headache or sweaty palms. Over time it can severely impact many systems throughout your body. It’s important to think about how you identify and manage your stress. If you’re suffering from long-term stress, please visit your doctor so you can develop the best strategy for tackling your stress and preserving your health.
The change of weather also leads to added allergen substances in the environment – welcome to allergy season. Itchy eyes, runny noses, and sore throat are only some of the inconveniences that encompass this season. Trying to find the right medications to relieve your symptoms can also be an exhausting task. However, if you are averse to medications, you’re not out of luck, as there are many natural ways to defeat allergies.
While medications can help you once allergy symptoms strike, natural remedies may present ways to avoid these attacks all together. WebMD shared the following as the top natural ways to defeat allergies:
- Shut Out Breezes
- On days when the pollen count is high, closing your windows keeps the indoor air as pollen-free as possible.
- Wash Up
- Washing up consistently during this period can help prevent the spread of outdoor allergen particles that may latch onto your hair, skin, clothes, shoes, etc.
- Wear a Mask
- Available at many drug stores, masks block about 95% of particles like pollen and other small allergens from entering your airways.
- Dietary Changes
- Eating fruits and vegetables have been related to fewer allergy symptoms. Meanwhile, consuming cayenne pepper, hot ginger, fenugreek, along with onions and garlic can also un-stuff your nose.
- Nasal Rinses
- These rinses clear dust, pollen, and other bacteria, while thinning mucus and lessening postnasal drip.
- Drink More
- Drinking more water can offer relief by thinning the mucus in the nasal passages.
- Get Steamy
- Whether from hot fluids like soup or tea, or from hot towels or showers, steam can also un-stuff nasal passages.
- Go Natural
- Using natural cleaners in your home are the best ways to avoid indoor allergens. Ingredients like vinegar and baking soda are less likely to trigger symptoms.
- Studies have shown this remedy aids in sneezing, runny nose, and puffy eyes.
- Avoid Cigarette Smoke
- Fumes like cigarette smoke or others from aerosol sprays or wood-burning fireplaces for example, can quickly trigger stuffy noses and itchy, watery eyes.
While these natural remedies are great to incorporate into your everyday life, the most important one is knowing your triggers. Knowing what the problem is makes for the best prevention, and your doctor will be best suited to help with your allergies. Through diagnosis or with referrals to an allergist, your partnership with your doctor can make allergy season much more enjoyable.
There are many leading causes of death, chief among them is cancer. Among the cancers specifically, the third most common, and second leading cause of death is colorectal cancer. This is one of many reasons March is recognized as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Affecting people of all races and ages, the goal is to spread awareness while encouraging people to take preventable actions to help reduce the development of this cancer.
In 2017, FightColorectalCancer.org shared a document highlighting a few facts about colorectal cancer:
- 1/20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer
- People with a first-degree relative with colon cancer are between 2-3 times more likely to develop this cancer
- 25% of people diagnosed have a family history
- 1/3 people are not up to date on their colorectal cancer screenings
- 23 million people have not been screened
- 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could have been prevented
- Evidence shows that screening tests reduced the number of colorectal cancer cases and deaths
Before discussing the screenings, it’s important to also identify some signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer. Though many can be caused from other conditions or go unnoticed, with the help of the American Cancer Society we’ve identified a few symptoms to look out for.
- Change in bowel habits (E.g. diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool)
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Feeling that you need to have a bowl movement, but aren’t relieved by one
- Blood in the stool
- Weakness and fatigue or unintentional weight loss
Though most of these cases happen over the age of 50, if you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to visit your doctor immediately. Additionally, one of the best ways to lower your risk of these symptoms is through screening tests. These tests can find polyps or other traces of colorectal cancer. The CDC recommended the four following screening tests:
- Stool Test – used to checked for blood in the stool; encouraged every 1-3 years.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – used to check for polyps inside rectum and lower colon; encouraged every 5 years
- Colonoscopy – similar to the previous tests, used as a follow up to search for anything unusual found in previous test; encouraged every 10 years
- CT Colonography – a virtual colonoscopy used to produce images of entire colon; encouraged every 5 years.
As you see there’s many tests that serve different purposes. However, to discover which test is best for you, be sure to speak with your doctor. Not only will they best analyze the test most suitable for you, but they can also aid in forming a timetable that keeps you up to date with your screenings and thus keeping you healthy.
If you’re like most companies in the U.S., you are searching for a solution to curb the staggering increases in the healthcare costs facing both your company and your employees. With costs continuing to rise, it may seem there is not much hope for savings. However an innovative solution exists. It is called Direct Primary Care and it puts you in control of your healthcare through a creative partnership with independent primary care physicians in your community.
Learn more by reading the latest R-Health white paper.
A local, independent primary care physician recently shared a story with me that is important for every business owner, CEO, CFO and HR executive to understand. As is more and more common these days, there are a number of hospital-owned primary care practices in the same area as her practice. She explained to me that the insurance companies pay these hospital-owned primary care physicians 40% more than her for the exact same visit. This dramatic price differential has nothing to do with care quality or service – it is completely based on the hospital’s dominant market strength and negotiating leverage.
Now here’s the kicker.
The folks who run the health plan for the hospital’s own employees approached her to figure out how they could encourage more of their employees to come to her practice, instead of the hospital’s own primary care practices. Why?
You see, the hospital self-funds its health plan. Meaning, rather than paying a third-party insurance company, it pays the actual cost of the healthcare services its employees and their families receive from doctors, hospitals and labs. Now, if you’re on the hook for the costs, would you want to pay 40% more for the identical service? The answer is most likely no, and they don’t either.
The truth is that there are vast cost differences for care when delivered by an independent primary care physician versus a hospital-owned physician practice. These variations can be 70%, 122%, or even 222% more for the hospital-owned practice.
But it gets even worse.
Let’s say one of your employees (or their family member) needs a knee replacement. In Philadelphia, the cost of a knee replacement can vary from $17,000 at one local hospital versus $46,500 at another local hospital. That’s a glaring 165% difference between the two. (Blue Cross Blue Shield the Health of America Report)
This one patient’s choice of hospital can have a nearly $30,000 impact on your company’s bottom line. Now, who will the patient naturally look to for advice on which hospital and specialist to choose? Their primary care doctor.
If the primary care practice is owned by a hospital, their financial compensation is tied to referring care within that hospital system. This is true regardless of whether the hospital is $30,000 more expensive for the particular procedure, without offering any quality advantage.
As a patient, what you actually want is a relationship with an independent, objective primary care physician whose primary goal is keeping you out of the hospital and is free to refer necessary care to the specialist or hospital that delivers the best value for your particular situation.
As an employer, you need an objective ‘healthcare quarterback’ whose interests align with yours and who is responsible for delivering this massive project called ‘healthcare’ on time and on budget.
Direct Primary Care is a growing national movement of employers partnering directly with high-performing, independent primary care physicians within their communities. Direct Primary Care combines the traditional core values of convenient, personal primary care, with innovative data analytics and care management, as well as a financial structure that holds the physicians accountable for the quality and cost of the care your employees and their families receive.
Empowering the relationship between your employees and independent primary care physicians is one of the most effective tools in your arsenal for regaining control of soaring healthcare costs.
One employer in Philadelphia has a lot to be grateful for this year. By partnering with R-Health to provide Direct Primary Care as part of their benefits package, they were able to keep their employee healthcare costs flat for the first time in years. Their employees have much to be thankful for too, as a large portion of the costs would have been shouldered by them.
The back story: The employer was facing a 40% increase in their group health insurance premiums for 2015. They felt like they had no choice but to shift more costs on to employee’s and their families by increasing employee contributions and raising the deductibles.
Sound like a familiar story? Well, this savvy employer realized this approach was unsustainable and that they couldn’t just keep doing the same old thing any longer.
So, in comes R-Health to help them create a smarter benefit design. By combining R-Health Direct Primary Care with a Bronze PPO plan they were offering, their employees will now have outstanding, unrestricted access to their own personal physician (no co-pays or deductibles!) and the financial backstop of a broad PPO network for any major medical issues that may arise.
And best of all, this strategic benefit design allowed the employer to avoid increasing the monthly premium paid by employees for their healthcare. Now that’s something to be thankful for.