3 reasons to prioritize primary care — no matter how you identify

Build a strong foundation with your primary care doc, and they’ll advocate on your behalf

Dr. Miriam T. Kennelly chose to study medicine because she wanted to help. She wanted to be an advocate for people from a variety of backgrounds, especially those from underserved populations including LGBTQIA and veterans. She chose primary care as her focus because she enjoys building longterm relationships, and providing comprehensive care to her patients.

“Every patient is unique, and when I meet someone new I have no assumptions. It’s important to build that foundation of trust both because it’s respectful, and because it leads to better health outcomes,” she says.

3 ways a strong doctor-patient relationship helps you

1. Your advocate in the medical system

On your first visit to Dr. Kennelly at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) First Hill, she’ll ask a range of questions to start getting to know you and your health experience: what brings you to the clinic, what your experience in Seattle is, your past medical history (both physical and mental) and your social history — who you’re living with, where you’re from and what you do for work. All of this informs Dr. Kennelly about the full spectrum of you and your needs. The intake form usually includes a space to indicate your preferred pronouns, but she’ll ask if she hasn’t already learned this.

“I want everybody to have accessible health care, and I try to eliminate barriers to care,” Dr. Kennelly says.

The better Dr. Kennelly understands you, the better an advocate she can be when explaining your needs to medical specialists contributing to your care.

2. A consultant and coordinator of head-to-toe care

Your primary care physician is your gateway to the many specialists and services in the healthcare system. Suppose your routine cancer screening requires follow-up care or you’re seeking gender affirming surgery — or maybe you want a referral for depression or anxiety treatment. An appointment with your primary care physician is Step One, and they should help you every step of the way after that.

“You may not know where to go first, who to see next and when, and often you need a referral. Primary care physicians can also be a trusted confidant: someone to talk to throughout the process, someone you can always call,” Dr. Kennelly says. “We can integrate your test results and information from specialists, and make it more understandable.”

3. Better outcomes

Strong communication between doctor and patient also leads to more effective treatments.

“Just because I give a patient medical advice doesn’t mean they’re going to follow through and fill the prescription or try the exercises,” Dr. Kennelly says. “Patients are more likely to follow a treatment plan if they understand it, and if we’ve built that critical foundation of trust and respect. We’re on a team together.”