PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Few of us would deliberately do something to put our health in jeopardy, but that's exactly what millions of Americans are doing.
This conversation starts with a simple question. Do you have a doctor?
KDKA's John Shumway is here with concerning numbers.
For many, urgent cares and hospital emergency rooms have taken the place of a family doctor, and that comes with risks.
The decision of not having a primary care physician comes with medical risks to the individuals who choose that approach.
The latest numbers indicate that around 25% of all Americans do not have a PCP, and for folks under the age of 40, just under 50% do not have a relationship with a doctor.
Primary Care is relational care. That's where the magic comes in and the power and the strength of it," said Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher, AHN's Vice Chair of its Primary Care Institute.
"When you get out on your own, there's there's no mom making those appointments for you. And you might say what why do I need this? Why do I need this?" asked Dr. Crawford-Faucher.
As a result, individuals rely on urgent care.
"Urgent care should never have had to play that role. They're great for the after hours, you know, sprained ankle kind of thing," Dr. Crawford-Faucher said.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic was a wakeup call.
"The like, where do I go? Who do I call if things get worse if you don't have that built in already? It's very scary for people and very inefficient. You end up waiting in lines that ER is in urgent care and when the best treatments are the best, most efficient treatment is with a trusted doctor that you already knew," Dr. Crawford-Faucher said.
Dr. Crawford-Faucher says a primary care physician, even if you only see them occasionally, knows your history and can watch for issues. They also may be able to handle issues over the phone or virtually.
When it comes to a gender difference in the ranks of people without a PCP, there is a gap, with women more likely to have a doctor than men.
Aside from the health benefits, there are money saving reasons why having a doctor may be in your best interest.
As with all medicine, Dr. Crawford-Faucher says that the earlier a problem is recognized, the better for your health and usually the cheaper it can be handled, perhaps even without an office visit.
"We do a lot of care virtually. We do a lot of care over messaging. Because if you're healthy and you've got a healthy lifestyle, and you know that you can reach me if you have a problem. I probably need to see it once every year or two," Dr. Crawford-Faucher said.
She says COVID-19 really changed a lot because it took telemedicine from a futuristic concept to everyday medicine and it's made things so much easier for patient's schedules.
Lastly, she says the most critical part of things is having a good relationship between you and your doctor.
If you're not seeing someone you're comfortable with, find someone else -- but find someone before your need is urgent.
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