Marla Ahlgrimm says that in the current medical environment, the lines have blurred between primary care physicians and ObGyn’s. With so many PCPs providing gynecological services, patients can be confused, according to Marla Ahlgrimm. Further complicating matters, some primary care physicians offer gynecological services, Marla Ahlgrimm adds. A respected expert in women’s health, Marla Ahlgrimm knows the importance of regular medical exams. This added convenience has made it easier for women to stay healthy, Marla Ahlgrimm has found, but it’s more important than ever that women do their research before choosing a doctor. Below, Marla Ahlgrimm answers questions about choosing the right physician to meet all of a woman’s particular needs.
Q: Is it common for a woman to consider her ObGyn her primary care physician?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes. A study from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that more than half of women consider their ObGyn their PCP.
Q: Are obstetricians and gynecologists able to handle primary care issues?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Primary care instruction is now part of an ObGyn’s education.
Q: How much of their education is geared toward primary care?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The requirement states that four to six months of primary care training must be included in an ObGyn’s 48-month residency.
Q: Is an ObGyn Board-certified to do primary care?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Twenty percent of an ObGyn’s certification is dedicated to primary care.
Q: Have these requirements always been in place?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The requirements were instituted in 1995 and revised in 2000.
Q: If my physician was certified before that time, does that mean he or she is unable to provide primary care services?
Marla Ahlgrimm: It depends. Some physicians who completed training before that time may be able to provide these services.
Q: How will I know?
Marla Ahlgrimm: It is important you discuss this with your doctor.
Q: What questions should I ask?
Marla Ahlgrimm: It’s important to gauge a doctor’s comfort level with providing primary care services.
Q: Are there any indicators that he or she might be?
Marla Ahlgrimm: I recommend asking what percentage of his/her practice is dedicated to primary care services.
Q: What if it’s a small percentage?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Then it might be wise to choose a different physician for primary care services.
Q: Don’t some primary care physicians offer ObGyn services now?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes. You’ll also have to gauge your PCP’s comfort level with gynecology services.
Q: Are there some issues a gynecologist can’t handle?
Marla Ahlgrimm: It depends on the physician. There are some ObGyn’s who may feel the need to refer to a specialist or general practitioner for certain issues.
Q: What kind of issues might prompt a referral?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A ObGyn may be comfortable interpreting the results of a blood test, for instance, but not treating issues like hypertension or diabetes on an ongoing basis.
Q: What are some advantages of using an ObGyn for primary care?
Marla Ahlgrimm: ObGyn’s tend to be very adept at treating women’s issues.
Q: Could an ObGyn give better treatment in some areas than a PCP?
Marla Ahlgrimm: ObGyn’s are often well versed in issues relating to hormonal changes.
Q: As a woman gets older, is it more important to seek the advice of different physicians?
Marla Ahlgrimm: As a woman ages, her health needs change, so I do believe it’s important to seek specialist care as necessary.
Marla Ahlgrimm graduated from the Pharmacy School of the University of Wisconsin. Early in her career, Marla Ahlgrimm co-founded Madison Pharmacy Associates, where she worked alongside colleagues to help women manage health concerns unique to them. Marla Ahlgrimm later founded Women’s Health America, where she focused her efforts on helping women manage the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, perimenopause, menopause, and other conditions.