As a primary care physician, you may not have had the opportunity to study pathology in-depth during your medical training. However, a strong understanding of pathology is essential for any physician, as it can inform diagnosis, treatment, and overall patient care.
While pathologists are the experts in the field, primary care physicians should also have a solid understanding of pathology. And healthy collaboration between pathologists and primary care physicians can make all the difference in the patient’s outcomes. Here are six reasons why a strong understanding of pathology is essential for every primary care physician.
1. Accurate Diagnosis
Pathology plays a crucial role in the accurate diagnosis of many diseases. By examining tissue or fluid samples, pathologists can identify cancerous cells, infections, and other abnormalities. When a primary care physician understands pathology, they can quickly identify what to sample, how to obtain the sample, and the best way to preserve the sample for the pathologist to evaluate.
For example, suppose a patient presents with a suspicious lump. A primary care physician with pathology knowledge may be able to recognize the importance of ordering a biopsy instead of a fine-needle aspirate to get an accurate diagnosis. Perhaps the lump doesn’t exfoliate well, so an FNA won’t give great results. Or the lump is suspicious enough that a full biopsy can lead to faster treatment and a better prognosis for the patient.
2. Treatment Decisions
Pathology is often critical in informing treatment decisions. While the pathologist can examine the sample and provide a diagnosis and input, the primary care physician has the patient in front of them.
A primary care physician can use the pathology report in conjunction with their physical exam findings and knowledge of the individual patient to design the optimal treatment plan. Understanding the pathologist’s diagnosis and being able to thoroughly asses their remarks can ensure the patient gets the treatment they need.
3. Patient Education
Primary care physicians are usually the first to educate patients, especially in complicated situations. A strong understanding of pathology can help physicians explain complex medical conditions and technical pathology language to their patients in a way that is easy to understand.
By sharing the results of pathology tests and explaining how they inform treatment decisions, primary care physicians can help patients feel more involved in their care and better understand their prognosis, which leads to better compliance and treatment outcomes.
4. Preventative Care
Pathology can also play a role in preventative care. For example, a pathology report may reveal the presence of precancerous cells that can be removed before they develop into cancer. By understanding the significance of pathology results, primary care physicians can help patients take a proactive approach to their health and wellness.
5. Collaboration with Specialists
When primary care physicians have a solid foundation of pathology knowledge, they can collaborate more effectively with pathologists. Inevitably, there are situations where the pathology report doesn’t match the physician’s knowledge of the case, or there are questions about the pathologist’s methods and techniques. When the physician can communicate clearly with the pathologist, collaboration that benefits the patient can occur.
Partnering with Pathologists
To ensure you have the most up-to-date and accurate pathology information, consider attending continuing medical education courses or seeking opportunities to shadow pathologists. By investing in your knowledge of pathology, you can improve the quality of care you provide to your patients and make a meaningful difference in their lives.
Additionally, it’s important to find a pathology laboratory you can collaborate with regularly. The partnership between primary care physicians and pathologists is critical in optimizing patient outcomes. Building a relationship with pathologists you trust will help you provide the high-level medicine you are committed to.
Begin building your new partnership—contact us today!