Avoid outliving your primary care physician

By Steven V. Dubin

How do I avoid outliving my primary care physician? Glad you asked.

When I started to take my own health care somewhat seriously, around the birth of my first child about 35 years ago, I cleverly chose a young doctor who reminded me of the hit TV series Doogie Howser.

Unfortunately, Doogie, or the real life Dr. David Parker, was elevated through the health care system to manage and head up an emergency care unit a good distance away. He left me behind. I floundered to find a new victim, I mean doctor.

Luckily for me, I came across young Nurse Practitioner Mary Cunningham. Mary is so young she still has more eyeglass options than I have for dress shirts. She is very patient with my old-guy questions and embarrassing health concerns. As a matter of fact, she commented that she specializes in embarrassing questions.

What should you do to avoid outliving your doctor? Here are some suggestions:

Establish a relationship with a group practice

Group practices often have multiple physicians who share patient care responsibilities. This means if one doctor retires or is unavailable, another can seamlessly continue your care. Look for practices with a collaborative approach to patient management.

Use a healthcare network

Affiliating with a healthcare network or a medical organization that has multiple practitioners and facilities can provide you with a broader support system. These networks often have integrated medical records, ensuring continuity of care if you need to switch doctors.

Inquire about succession plans

Ask your current physician about their retirement plans and succession arrangements. A well-prepared physician will have plans to transfer patients to a trusted colleague or successor within the practice.

Utilize electronic health records (EHR)

Ensure your medical records are kept in a digital format that is easily accessible and transferable. This facilitates the transition to a new physician if necessary. Many healthcare systems use EHRs, which can be shared across different providers.

Stay informed and involved

Stay proactive in managing your health and be informed about your medical conditions and treatment plans. This will make it easier for a new physician to understand your medical history and provide appropriate care.

Maintain health insurance flexibility

Choose a health insurance plan that offers a broad network of physicians. This will give you more options if you need to find a new PCP.

Build relationships with multiple physicians

If possible, have consultations with other doctors within the same practice or network. This way, if your primary doctor is unavailable, you are already familiar with another physician who can take over your care.

Monitor physician longevity and practice stability

Research the longevity and stability of the practice where your PCP works. Practices with a long history and stable management are more likely to have plans for physician transitions and patient continuity.

Plan for long-term care

Consider having a geriatric care plan in place, which may include regular visits to specialists in aging. Geriatricians often work within systems designed to provide continuity of care as patients age.

By considering these strategies, you can help ensure that you maintain continuous and consistent medical care, even if your current primary care physician retires or is no longer available.

Or find your own Doogie Howser.

If you know of a senior who is doing something interesting with their retirement, I look forward to hearing from you! Please email me at SDubin@PRWorkZone.com 

Steven V. Dubin is the founder of PR Works, a lightly used public relations firm based in Plymouth which helps small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies navigate the overwhelming options of advertising. Steve lives in Plymouth with his wife, Wendy. He is a contributing author to “Get Slightly Famous” and “Tricks of the Trade,” the complete guide to succeeding in the advice business. He recently authored “PR 101,” an E-book.