Why Your Primary Care Physician Is the Key to Your Health

A Portsmouth, R.I., resident finds a trusted health partner in her longtime primary care physician

Your health is a valuable asset. That’s why it’s so important to establish a relationship with a primary care physician (PCP). Your PCP is a first point of contact and a partner in health, getting to know your health goals and managing your progress over time. A primary care doctor can help catch problems early, schedule appropriate preventive care and help you live better with chronic disease. When a referral is needed, he or she also can make informed decisions about the most appropriate source of specialty care.

“When my patients visit regularly, it puts me in a good position to pick up on an emerging health problem and pursue it,” said Andrea Bond, MD, a Southcoast primary care physician specializing in family medicine in Portsmouth, R.I. “Primary care is your first line of treatment. If you ignore problems, it can turn into an uphill battle for your health. And if I know you well, I can better advocate for you when needed.”

Dr. Bond specializes in nutrition, exercise and preventive care, and sees herself as her patients’ coach. “At every visit, I assess where patients are and counsel them or provide information they can use to make changes. People feel so much better when they take preventive steps like exercising and eating well,” she said.

When additional care is needed, Dr. Bond noted that she need look no further than Southcoast’s own network of specialists to better serve her patients. “It’s an advantage to have physicians I feel comfortable referring my patients to, all within the same system,” she said.

A problem solved

Lifelong Portsmouth, R.I., resident Evelyn Correia experienced this primary care advantage firsthand in 2011 when she was faced with a debilitating surgical complication. A hysterectomy performed outside of the Southcoast Health system resulted in a colostomy, which later caused a hernia.

Evelyn, then 82 years old, was overwhelmed by this unexpected turn of events and soon stopped pursuing her favorite activities, which include fishing, clamming and walking her Jack Russell terrier. She sought out various specialists, even traveling to Boston, but each told her that the colostomy was irreversible due to her age and that she should “learn to live with it.”

Fortunately, Evelyn had a long primary care relationship with Dr. Bond, who saw that her patient’s quality of life was declining. “I had seen her annually for about 20 years and felt strongly she was in good health and there was no reason not to pursue a reversal of the colostomy simply due to her age,” Dr. Bond stressed. “Yes, she was happy to be alive after the surgery, but she had stopped doing the things she loved.”

Dr. Bond consulted her Southcoast colleagues and was referred to Victor Pricolo, MD, Chief of General Surgery and Colorectal Surgery of Southcoast Health. After reviewing the case, he, too, saw no barrier to reversing the colostomy.

“I had a lot of faith in Dr. Bond and Dr. Pricolo,” said Evelyn. “Dr. Pricolo didn’t think there was any problem with [reversing the colostomy] if I wanted to have it done. So going into the surgery I had a really good feeling, and it all worked out the way I thought it would.” After Evelyn recovered successfully from the procedure, Dr. Pricolo was able to repair the hernia, as well.

“With most patients, it’s the subtle things that are clues to a change in health,” said Dr. Bond. “I might find signs of anxiety or depression, disease such as high cholesterol, or the first signs of prostate or breast cancer. In Ms. Correia’s case, she didn’t realize what a toll [her health problems] had begun to take on her life, and I felt comfortable that I was sending her to the best person to address the problems.”

This fall, now 86-year-old Evelyn returned to helping the harvesters at Dr. Bond’s Tiverton vineyard, as she has done for many years. She cooked up her signature Portuguese soup and enough lasagna for a crowd, and even helped to set up the lights. “Now that she’s feeling healthy again, she’s back to running the show,” Dr. Bond said.

“My mom lived to be almost 100, and I’m keeping active as long as I can,” added Evelyn. “I thank goodness I’m healthy.”

Search Southcoast’s Find a Doc database to find a primary care doctor near you.