As often as it’s encouraged that people go to the doctor regularly to stay on top of their health, especially those more at risk for certain deadly diseases and conditions, that’s not the easiest thing to make happen. Scheduling conflicts aside, it can be a headache to find the right physician, the kind you can feel comfortable returning to.
It’s no secret that a vast number of Black people have had disappointing experiences with the medical system. Mistreatment at the hands of medical professionals is all too common, so much so that it’s a part of this country’s history and been highlighted with the Black maternal health crisis and the current COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why it’s not a surprise that a survey conducted by The Kaiser Family Foundation and publication The Undefeated found that seven out of 10 of African Americans felt the health care system treats people unfairly based on race “very often” or “somewhat often.” Nor is it a shock, though sad, that of those surveyed, 37 percent of Black mothers and 25 percent of Black women in general reported that they were treated unfairly during a doctor’s appointment within the last year because of their race or ethnic background.
While there’s no definitive answer in regards to how to fix this, one physician wants you to know that you have options for better treatment — like seeking out full spectrum healthcare for yourself and your family. Dr. Chelesea Mooreland is the founder and CEO of the Life Cycle Direct Primary Care practice in Central Ohio. She is also a board certified family physician who practices and shares the benefits of full spectrum primary care.
“Full spectrum health care is care across generations and sex and includes care of every body system and organ. Achieving this goal can be done by using multiple physicians or one — a family physician,” she tells ESSENCE. “Family Physicians are trained and comfortable addressing most of your healthcare needs, which minimizes the number of individuals involved in and responsible for your care on a regular basis. By using a family physician for your care, you decrease cost, improve the doctor-patient relationship, and increase access to the services you need and desire.”
Doctors in family medicine are trained to diagnose, treat and prevent illness in children, adolescents, men, women and the elderly. They are also trained in prenatal care, substance abuse treatment, acute illnesses, chronic conditions like mood disorders, and much more.
“Our scope is broad and as such we serve as the quarterbacks of medicine and good health,” Dr. Mooreland says. “Patients come to us as the entry point for most conditions, and we can triage patients quickly and affordably to determine who is appropriate for and requires a specialist evaluation vs. who can be managed with more conservative treatment options for a given condition.”
But the greatest benefit of family physicians in primary care is the relationship that is formed between the doctor and their patient. They learn the healthcare needs and concerns of a patient and their family and can best treat them over time. These doctors and their work is nothing new.
“When we think of physicians back in the early 1900s, family medicine doctors were the ones making house calls, delivering babies, and managing your children as they grew up,” she says. “Over the years, we’ve gotten away from this and as a system have increased healthcare expense, decreased satisfaction with the healthcare experience and quality, and only slightly improved outcomes. We’ve taken the relational aspect of medicine out, and this therapeutic relationship is key to creating long lasting and meaningful change in patients’ lives.”
To obtain a family physician, they can usually be found, whether through Google or insurance portals, when searching for a primary care physician alongside those in internal medicine and pediatric care (Health in Her Hue can help direct you to the right physician, who also happens to be Black).
We asked Dr. Moreland to share some of the reasons why you need to stop looking for doctors to treat specific ailments and seek out physicians in family medicine. They can be something of a one-stop shop for wellness and possibly, the answer when it comes to finding the comprehensive, compassionate care you’ve been searching for. Here are a few:
An Increase in Trust
“The dissatisfaction of disjointed care lends itself to worsening the lack of trust families have in doctors and the healthcare system. This means that when patients need us, they hesitate, they delay care, they second guess our recommendations. When you establish an enduring relationship with a doctor for you and your family, Black women position themselves to be prepared for life’s twists and turns, able to respond to health crises quicker and with greater confidence that the treatment recommendations they are receiving are centered on their best interest.”
An Alternative in the Time of the Black Maternal Health Crisis
“The Black maternal health crisis is attributed to many things, but bias, mistrust, and limited access drive this crisis rather than genetic disparities. For a Black woman to have their Primary Care Doctor (PCP) actively involved in their pregnancy, this decreases the risk of missed and delayed diagnoses, improves patient advocacy through the trusting and enduring relationship that is developed, and prevents gaps that occur in handoff from preconception through delivery. Family physicians are uniquely positioned to provide accessible, cost effective, and comprehensive preconception counseling, and the best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy is to ensure a healthy mother before conception. – Many conditions that arise in pregnancy are preventable and treatable by a skilled family physician, and when necessary and in the patient’s best interest, treated collaboratively with an obstetrician or maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist. The creation of this team-based approach increases the number of advocates and skilled persons involved in a mother’s care and further reduces the risk of missed and delayed diagnoses and unnecessary interventions.”
Care for More Than Just Your Current Condition
“A skilled physician can know the diagnosis and the treatment plan inside and out, but if they lack a meaningful and trusting relationship with their patient the patient doesn’t benefit from their knowledge because there is no buy-in. As a family physician, caring for generations of family members, we are undoubtedly invested in the future and outcomes of our patients, not just the presenting concern.”