Health Care Doctor

Why it is important to maintain a close relationship with your primary doctor

Claudia Siegel was struck with a stomach virus earlier this year. She sought advice from her primary care physician to help her. Surprised to receive an email message from her primary care doctor, telling her she had not seen her in three years and that she was no longer a client.

She would need to find a new primary physician, as he was not accepting new patients.

Siegel stated, “It’s unconscionable.” He also noted that patients might have avoided the doctor’s office in the past years due to the covid pandemic. “The patients were not notified that they are at risk of losing their doctor,” Siegel said.

Although it’s disappointing to find out you have been removed from a doctor’s practice due to a few years of inactivity, this is not a common occurrence. No one knows how common the experience is. However, specialists can also do this.

It makes sense to drop the occasional patient. Many primary care doctors have a waiting list of potential patients. Getting rid of those who are not seen often opens up more patient slots and increases access for other physicians.

“Most primary care practices in the United States are extremely busy due to pent-up demand due to covid,” stated Dr. Russell Phillips of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Primary Care. He is also a general internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

He said, “Even though continuity is important if a patient hasn’t been in and doesn’t know if it’s going to come back, it’s difficult to make room for them.”

Experts say that patients often move away from their doctor or choose a new one when their insurance is changed without informing the practice. Physicians may also consider reclassifying patients they haven’t seen in a while as new patients, since it may take time to update their social, medical, and family history after a long break. One factor that affects the amount doctors are paid is their patient status.

Patients can still find it difficult to transition.

Courtney Jones, the Patient Advocate Foundation’s senior director of case management, said that she can understand the patient’s perspective. “You think you have a trusted medical team to assist you in making decisions. Now you need to find another trusted team.”

Siegel stated that she didn’t visit the doctor often, following her father’s advice that patients shouldn’t go to the doctor unless they are sick. Siegel stated that she had communicated with her doctor’s staff and kept them informed about her covid vaccination status, even though she hadn’t visited her doctor in person in a while.

Siegel called the family practice’s patient number directly after receiving the online dismissal via the Jefferson Health System patient portal. They explained to Siegel that the protocol was three years and she had to adhere to it.

Siegel replied, “I asked, “What about the patient?” “They didn’t have an answer.”

Siegel, who is covered under Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service program, was not able to see a doctor accepting new patients until a month later. Her stomach virus symptoms were gone by that point.

According to Damien Woods, spokesperson for Jefferson Health, Jefferson Health does not have a policy that patients should lose their doctor if they aren’t seen regularly.

He said that patients who have not been seen for more than three years are considered new patients in electronic medical records. This is per the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS guidance). Jefferson helps these patients whenever possible to stay with their primary care providers and provides options for new providers when necessary.

American Medical Association guidelines recommend that doctors notify patients before they withdraw from a case to allow them time to find another doctor.

Robert Mills, the spokesperson for AMA, stated that the organization, which represents doctors, does not provide any guidance on maintaining a patient panel.

The American Academy of Family Physicians is a group that represents and advocates family doctors. They declined to comment on this story.

Phillips of Harvard says that a primary care physician’s patient list typically includes patients who have been seen within the last two years. Studies show that doctors may see more than 2,000 patients. It is vital to maintain a manageable patient count for both patients and doctors.

Phillips stated that physicians realize that having too many patients can lead to physician burnout.

As people get older and require more care, the demand for physician services will continue to exceed supply over the next decades. At the same time, the number of retired physicians is increasing. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges projections, there will be a shortage of 48,000 primary care doctors by 2034.

A regular relationship with your primary care provider is a great way to manage chronic conditions and quickly identify any new problems. Regular check-ins can help ensure that people receive routine services like immunizations or blood pressure checks. Dr. David Blumenthal is a former primary physician and president of the Commonwealth Fund, an organization for research and policy.

As healthcare organizations become more focused on the quality of care, they are increasingly requiring doctors to meet certain metrics. These include managing high blood pressure and providing comprehensive diabetes care. Blumenthal stated that physicians could find it difficult to take responsibility for patients’ health in this setting.

It also includes money. A practice’s bottom line is enhanced by steady visits. Owen Dahl, a consultant at the Medical Group Management Association, an organization that assists healthcare managers, stated that practices may decide to not accept new Medicare patients or people with certain types of insurance.

Doctors are not required to see a patient. Patients might be dismissed by doctors if they don’t follow clinical recommendations or cancel or miss appointments routinely. A doctor can also dismiss a patient if they are abusive or belligerent.

Physicians may be legally responsible for “patient abandonment”, a type of medical malpractice, in certain cases. While state rules are different, there are some common elements. These rules apply to doctors who harm a patient by abruptly dropping them at an important stage of treatment. If a patient hasn’t seen the doctor in several years, it would not be applicable.

Experts said that even though a patient may not be aware of the situation, it is important to inform them.

Rick Gundling (senior vice president of, the Healthcare Financial Management Association), an association for finance professionals, said, “It’s great customer service to explain it.” He noted that Siegel should not be left hanging. The physician should be proactive if you are the patient.

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