More Than a Check-Up

By Caroline Betik – February 1, 2021

Dr. Valluri thinks of her patients as family. With a sharp mind and careful responsibility, she keeps an attitude of doing whatever it takes to keep her patients healthy. 

“This is a tough job — it’s not easy,” Valluri says. “It is demanding, but it is so gratifying when I get to see a patient get better from a disease, or if I am able to prevent something big from happening. I am really thankful for the opportunity to be a physician and help people.” 

Manshi Valluri Mallepogu is an M.D. of internal medicine at the Quarry Lake location of Austin Regional Clinic. As a primary care physician (PCP), Valluri acts as the first point of care for her patients and an educator who informs people about taking care of their bodies and preventive health care. 

Valluri’s relationship she makes with her patients is simply a doctor-to-patient trade-off of health information, diagnoses and prescriptions.

“If you have a primary care physician, they [the patient] share everything with you — the ups and downs, what is going on in their life. And once we develop this relationship, it is easy for physicians to care for patients and easy for patients to visit their PCP,” Valluri says. “The most important thing about primary care is the continuity of care.”

However, according to the American College of Physicians, the rise and use of alternative sources of care, such as walk-in clinics, as well as a decreased/perceived need for a primary care physician, has likely decreased the number of adults who report regularly visiting a primary care physician in recent years. 

“The problem is, some people who do not have a need to visit a primary care physician once every three months think they don’t need a PCP, because they are still young and seemingly healthy,” Valluri says. “But I have seen many patients who come in for the first time with one problem, but I always make sure they come back for a physical exam to make sure there are not any more underlying health problems they may be dealing with.” 

A PCP plays a large role in preventing diseases and illnesses from happening in the future, says Valluri. 

According to Primary Care Progress, a national non-profit organization that advocates and facilitates the revitalization of primary care in the U.S., most potential health problems are caught during annual check-ups, which keeps people out of hospitals when problems are dealt with before they progress. Additionally, it is reported adults who regularly visit their PCP have 19% lower odds of premature death than those who only seek alternative medical care. 

Different from walk-in clinics, which focus on prescribing a solution to the medical attention needed at a specific time or a specialist who only focuses on one area of the body, the relationship a patient makes with their PCP is one that offers health benefits not comparable with the kind of care one would receive from a walk-in clinic. 

Valluri says PCPs are able to act as a health gatekeeper who keeps an eye on all systems to treat both acute and chronic conditions efficiently and effectively. 

“PCPs are better equipped to give a patient the care they need by creating a direct plan according to their past medical history, which helps patients avoid unnecessary testing or doctor’s visits,” Valluri says. “When we send a patient to a specialist, we continue to keep an eye on everything, and we make sure we keep everyone in the loop and always give updates to patients on their health.”

Even if someone is healthy, Valluri says it is important to still attend annual check-ups in order to maintain good health now and in the future. 

To find a PCP, Valluri recommends looking at each potential doctor’s education history, patient reviews and physician’s background, but the best way to find a fit is to visit the clinic.

“It is normal for patients to be a little anxious on their first visit, because you don’t know much about the doctor and you may be worried about what the doctor might find,” Valluri says. “When I see my patients, I usually spend time educating them, and I don’t rush them. I want to give them time to talk so I can understand what’s going on with them, and I don’t waste time or expenses ordering labs or unnecessary tests.” 

Usually, a first-time check-up will be routine. This involves taking vital signs, going through a patient’s medical history, conducting a physical exam and educating patients on the importance of necessary tests, such as mammograms and colon cancer screenings. 

“If a patient has a regular follow-up visit with a PCP, they will be much safer from these cancers than if they were to show up after 30 years never seeing a physician and finding stage three cancer,” Valluri says. “If we find cancer that far along, it’s a lot harder to get rid of and more costly.”

At the end of the day, Valluri says the most rewarding part of her job is when she is able to prevent or manage a disease and ultimately make a difference in her patient’s lives. 

Valluri says she has countless stories to reflect on as she thinks of the difference she makes in her patients lives. For one patient, that difference was as small as a phone call. 

“When she came into the office a week later, she had tears in her eyes,” Valluri says. 

Valluri says that the patient, who was extremely concerned about her health, said that in 40 years, no other PCP had given her as many updates or phone calls to check on her as Valluri had.

Valluri says stories like these, getting to see a smile on a patient’s face — that is what keeps her going. 

“Even if I were given a million dollars, you cannot buy that kind of happiness,” she says.

 
 

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