• Shining light on importance of annual medical and dental appointments

    ‘Primary care is about prevention.’ Muskegon Family Care stresses need for regular medical checkups

Located near Lake Michigan’s coast, Muskegon Family Care aptly compares itself to a lighthouse. For those navigating their healthcare needs, the Patient-Centered Medical Home becomes a beacon for its communities to harbor better health.

And even if the waters appear calm, utilizing the Federally Qualified Health Center’s light remains beneficial. People who regularly see a primary care provider on average spend less time in the hospital and less money on medical costs through their lifespan.

Very few people wake up and say, ‘I want to go see a doctor,’” said Tracy McDaniel, CEO of Muskegon Family Care. “We preach that primary care is about prevention. Checkups are incredibly important.”

Muskegon Family Care offers comprehensive primary care services to its communities, treating patients no matter their background or ability to pay. Establishing a connection with a primary care provider at the fully integrated health clinic fosters good health in the present and helps maintain it into the future.

A primary care doctor at Muskegon Family Care addresses everyday health concerns, promotes healthy lifestyles, helps catch conditions early, advises through medical challenges and offers preventative care. Anything from treatment of common illnesses to vaccine administration to guidance in quitting smoking can occur through a relationship with a primary care doctor.

Around 40% of U.S. adults say they put off visiting the doctor, even in situations that require medical care. Muskegon Family Care cultivates a comforting atmosphere to better encourage regular appointments from its communities. From checking in at the front desk through meeting the provider, friendly faces guide each step through a visit.

McDaniel said a supportive environment helps prevent patients from committing the mistake of not maintaining appointments. He directed to statistics that show there resides one primary care doctor per 1600 residents in any given area around the state, highlighting a primary care doctor shortage. Missing an appointment possibly creates a delay in seeing a doctor.

Muskegon Family Care’s full integration of services means regular primary care appointments

can seamlessly extend into other facets of health care. The health center, in addition to medical, also provides dental, behavioral health, optometry and pharmaceutical services.

“There are so many other services here we offer to patients that we take a holistic approach,” McDaniel said. “We take care of the entire patient.”

Muskegon Family Care was among the first in the entire country to employ a dental coach, who speaks with primary care patients about the importance of oral health. The dental coach alleviates anxiety frequently associated with dentistry and stresses the benefits of annual appointments.

Regular dentist checkups provide thorough cleanings that remove plaque and tartar from the gum line to help prevent more serious problems. Routine checkups also identify and treat issues before aggravating further. Dental appointments also integrally tie into overall health and wellness, as poor oral health has shown links to other issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

A Muskegon Family Care primary care provider during an appointment may even detect some behavioral health concerns and immediately refer a patient to a behavior specialist right under the same roof. Since there is such a communal effort at the health center, a provider can be the starting point in a journey of health services, all in one location.

And if the provider does uncover a concern, McDaniel said they can help schedule an appointment that possibly takes place within a week or two, and occasionally the same day even.

A Muskegon Family Care primary care provider also acts as a patient’s point person in connecting with a specialist when a medical need extends beyond the health center’s scope. They can coordinate care with cardiologists, neurologists, oncologists and more.

“Your primary care provider is the hub, and all the other specialties are the spokes,” McDaniel said. “We try and make the patient comfortable with the healthcare system.”

Primary care providers are the heartbeat of health care, sharing in the responsibility for a patient’s physical and mental well-being. They conduct screenings like mammograms, help catch serious ailments in early stages, instruct how to make healthier decisions and more. And they complete it all under the treatment preferences a patient holds.

Through calm or rocky waters, patients can rely on Muskegon Family Care’s shining light illuminating a harbor where skilled and friendly faces await to serve their healthcare needs. It’s just a matter of regularly sailing in their direction.

“Muskegon Family Care is a beacon in this community,” McDaniel said.

And if transportation ever becomes a barrier to maintaining appointments, Muskegon Family Care outfits a fleet of vans to ensure patients can get there and back. The free transportation service can be utilized for any medical, dental or behavioral service at the health center. It’s scheduled on a first come, first serve basis, and can be reserved by calling 231-737-1783.

Learn more at mfc-health.org.