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Living Well

Primary Care Physicians: Your Partners in Diabetes Care

Last updated: Jul 03, 2017

If you have diabetes you may be wondering if you should see a specialist in the field, called an endocrinologist. But the majority of patients with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes are actually treated by their primary care physician (PCP) – which may be an internist or family physician.

PCPs at Summit Medical Group are trained to help manage our more than 10,000 patients with diabetes. As the quarterbacks of patient care, establishing a close relationship with a PCP is one of the best ways you can help keep your disease in check.

“PCPs are the bedrock of patient care. We walk this journey with them the entire way,” says Jill Gora, MD, family physician at Summit Medical Group.

“Diabetes is an extremely common diagnosis in our world. The vast majority of patients with diabetes can be effectively treated by a skilled PCP.”

PCPs are usually the first doctors to diagnose diabetes. This often happens during a routine physical exam. Since PCPs have a unique window into the patient’s medical history and family life, they are in the best position to notice any changes in their physical or emotional health.

“Ever year, we hear about the patient’s entire health story. We learn about their joys and stresses and get a sense of their overall environment at home and in the workplace. This gives us an opportunity to really understand our patients both physically and emotionally,” says Dr. Gora.

Furthermore, PCPs follow the health of the entire family. This is particularly important in type 2 diabetes, because it is highly genetic.

“If I hear that a mother, father, brother, or sister has type 2 diabetes, I watch that patient’s blood sugar like a hawk,” she says.

Dr. Gora advises patients to find a PCP they feel comfortable with and can talk to honestly. Open communication, she says, can ultimately make the difference between identifying prediabetes early and having the condition spiral out of control.

“When we test for diabetes, we look for certain clues that tell us to screen people earlier. Diabetes is not only a genetic disease–it is a lifestyle disease. By having an honest dialogue, we often find out things that our patients may be reluctant to tell us, such as relying heavily on a fast food diet, which make us decide to screen them sooner,” says Dr. Gora.

We Partner with Endocrinologists

When patients have difficulty getting their diabetes under control, PCPs partner closely with endocrinologists and other specialists. If the disease progresses, it can damage the eyes, kidneys, and feet. With access to more than 80 medical specialties and services, PCPs help patients navigate the health care system and recommend specialists when needed.  

“Endocrinologists and other specialists are crucial links in the chain of care. We often bring them in for a period of time, and once the patient is on better footing they come back to us. We follow them the entire way, and are in constant collaboration and communication with any specialist that is brought onto the care team,” says Dr. Gora.

References:

  1. Interview with Jill Gora, MD, family physician at Summit Medical Group (5/9/17).

  2. Interview with Margaret Eckler, MS, RD, CDE, at Summit Medical Group. (5/4/17).

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes. Web. 28 December 2016.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes. Web. 31 March 2015.

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