Before joining Premera in 2019, Dr. Steve Jacobson practiced primary care medicine for 27 years. As a physician, he believed a key part of his job was to educate and inspire his patients to be proactive about their health. He applies this same philosophy to his work as Premera’s Medical Director. We met with Dr. Jacobson to learn about his career in medicine and get his advice for members on taking charge of their health.
Q: Please tell us about your role at Premera.
Q: As Medical Director at Premera, I work with the Affordable Care Act and Medicare Advantage teams. My work has many parts. One piece is working with healthcare provider partners in Alaska and Washington to ensure we have good communication between Premera and their work. For example, we’ll provide them with data around gaps in care. Another element of my work is focused on improvement projects, such as reducing emergency room visits, improving care pathways, or improving urgent care at home.
Q: Prior to your role at Premera, you were a primary care physician for 27 years. What drew you to primary care?
A: I was always interested in primary care, pediatrics, and family medicine. In the United States, there is a bit more emphasis on specialty care. But other parts of the world place more emphasis on primary care, and there is strong evidence that good primary care has a bigger impact on the health of a population. It’s the primary care and family medicine physicians who are focused on immunizations and preventive care services. Many people believe we have too many specialists and not enough primary care doctors in our country, and that was where I felt I could really make a difference. Plus, over the course of a career in primary care you develop meaningful relationships with your patients. I had some individuals or families who I took care of for 27 years. That’s pretty special.
Q: How does your work relate to Premera’s mission to make healthcare work better?
A: One major part of what I do is encourage everyone to focus on their preventive care. Focusing on health maintenance can have a significant impact on individual and population health.
We think everyone should have a primary care physician—someone they work well with, who can provide them with education and guidance, and ensure they take advantage of the preventive services available to them. Sometimes things can come up seemingly out of the blue, and it’s good to have someone to go to when that happens. A common example is behavioral health concerns. People may begin experiencing depression or anxiety, and it can be hard to know where to turn. A primary care physician can help point you in the right direction to get the care you need.
Q: What do you think people should know or do when it comes to preventative care and using their health plan?
A: Plans can vary, but there are many benefits that can help people take charge of their health. For example, some plans include access to a gym membership or Silver Sneakers, a senior fitness program. Other plans include chiropractic care, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
Also, people over the age of 50, even if they’re healthy, should probably see their doctor on an annual basis. And folks with chronic conditions may go even more frequently. It is often much easier to treat health issues when you catch them early.
It’s also important to remember that many things that impact our health are things we control ourselves, so people should pay attention to things like what they eat, how much they sleep, how often they exercise, and their relationships.
Q: Where can members go to find out whether they are taking advantage of all the preventive care opportunities available to them?
A: Premera has great member education materials that spell out what preventive services you should take care of based on characteristics such as age, gender/gender preference, or sexual orientation. You can explore these materials at www.premera.com/visitor/care-essentials, and members can sign into their account to find coverage details specific to their plan.
I encourage folks to think about their to-do lists or life goals, and add preventive care to that list. It can make a difference.