Primary Care: Connection to Better Health

Primary care is essential to achieving better care, smarter spending and healthier people. Two WhidbeyHealth providers talk about why.

We’ve all done it. We wait until we are sick or injured before going to the doctor. And eventually we begin to associate visits to the doctor with something negative.

But here’s the good news: Scheduling regular well check-ups and seeing your provider when you are not sick may be the key to life-long health.

After more than 30 years in healthcare, WhidbeyHealth Chief Quality Officer (formerly Chief Nursing Officer) Linda Gipson, PhD, is convinced that having a good relationship with a primary care provider can assist patients in navigating the healthcare system for the best possible outcomes during the course of one’s life.

“It’s important to have a good relationship so you feel comfortable sharing all of your health concerns,” Gipson explains.  “When your provider knows you well, he or she can help you prevent disease or illness, manage a chronic disease you may already have, or cure a disease if it is caught early enough.”

Cost savings is another benefit of a regular relationship with a primary care provider.

“Prevention is always cheaper than treatment,” Gipson says.

Gipson’s views are echoed by Dr. Judye Scheidt of WhidbeyHealth Primary Care Cabot Drive in Oak Harbor and Hannah Carlson, ARNP of WhidbeyHealth Primary Care Clinton. Here are some of what each had to say about their experiences as primary care providers.

Why do you think primary care is important to one’s overall health?

JS: There is truth to the old saying ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ A primary care provider not only treats you when you are sick, but hopefully prevents things from developing. Our goal is to have continuity of care, knowing you inside and out and all your health issues. Also, it’s been shown that having a relationship with a primary care provider lowers the cost of care. Your primary care provider knows what tests you’ve had, what your blood work shows and already knows about your life, your family and your stressors.

What are some of the things you look at when you are caring for patients?

HC: I love getting to know my patients and finding out what motivates them and what is important in their lives. It’s important to find health solutions that work for their life, their family and their budget. Treating a whole person is about so much more than a prescription. It involves education and a trusting relationship.

How do you educate patients about living the healthiest life possible?

HC: My first goal is to find out what the patient already understands about their own health and try to find specific needs or knowledge gaps. I then offer health information tailored to that person. I like to discuss the rationales and statistics behind vaccines and important screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, so patients can make an informed decision and be in charge of their own health. I think it’s important that patients understand the power of lifestyle changes, disease prevention, and early detection. For example, I’d rather chat about how to prevent high blood pressure rather than treat it.

What are some of the things you do that people may not realize?

JS: People are often surprised by all that we do here. We offer a wide range of services such as flu shots, vasectomies, circumcisions, pilot physicals, immunizations, well checkups, STD testing and collaborate with other physicians and specialists of WhidbeyHealth.

We also do stress testing, lung testing and skin biopsies. We provide women’s health measures such as Pap smears, contraceptive management, intrauterine device placement, and treatment for menopause related issues. We also provide chronic disease management for diabetes, chronic heart failure, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and asthma.

How does the WhidbeyHealth continuum of care help you take better care of your patients?

HC: As a primary care provider, I am privileged to work with all of the specialties offered at WhidbeyHealth. For example, the Home Health team is a particularly amazing resource on our island. Their staff provides regular communication on some of our most complex patients, who are home-bound and in need of care. I am very grateful for this skilled team working with my patients in their own homes often during their most vulnerable times. I very much value their care and hear the same feedback from my patients.

Learn more about our four primary care locations.