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It is fairly well established that a good relationship between a healthcare provider (HCP) and patient leads to better health outcomes. Clear communication between the parties leads to trust, which in turn can lead to patients sharing essential information.

For persons living with a chronic illness, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), this medical relationship is only one of many. Because of my MS diagnosis, I juggle more than one HCP as I fulfill a variety of healthcare needs. This creates challenges. 

For over a year after my initial diagnosis, I had specialists addressing issues that belonged to my primary health care. Included in the crossed wires were things like prescription medications. This partially resulted from my 2-plus-hour journey from a nosebleed to MS. 

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When I was first told I might have MS, I did not have a chance to research professionals. I was fortunate to have my first and second opinion appointments scheduled for me. I benefited from the help of MS specialists before I was able to fully wrap my head around my chronic illness. As good as it was, this benefit was countered by the fact that roles got confused. 

As a way of corralling providers, and understanding their roles, I developed the analogy of a hand. I began to think of my primary care provider (PCP) at the center of my medical care with my neurologists and other medical personnel as the supporting fingers. I used this concept to align my needs with the proper HCP. If I have a new medical issue, I bring it to my PCP first. Like the palm of my healthcare hand, we work together to decide if it is a case for one of my specialists, my fingers in effect. 

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My fingers and palm work together to grasp and carry items. Much in the same way my PCP works with my neurologist, physical therapist, and others. Each part of the hand exists independent of the other, yet they work best in unison.

I chose a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center (FQHC) to function as my healthcare home. It is with my PCP that I manage my overall health. 

As a person living with MS, I spend a great deal of time at appointments and dealing with medical issues. My needs are complex and many. Attempting to keep up can be a side job in and of itself. I rely on my HCPs to aid me in staying as healthy as possible. My PCP supplies me with a central location from which to operate. 

I was able to illustrate the hand concept with my Congressional representatives. I explained that when I hold something valuable, it is held in the palm of my hand—the place where we hold things dear to us.  My PCP is an essential, irreplaceable part of my journey toward wellness and health.