BY THE NUMBERS: HOW ONE PHYSICIAN PROVIDES PERSONALIZED CARE

Dr. Eric Harker
Primary Care Physician

CPMG Primary Care Physician Dr. Eric Harker approaches his patients’ health from a realistic standpoint, assessing their lifestyles and risk factors with both mathematical logic and supportive compassion. Having started off as a math major at University of Colorado-Boulder, Dr. Harker decided he could use his passion for math in a practical way as a doctor, and went on to medical school at Duke University.

The traditional model of medicine is making way for a more personalized type of care, which relies heavily on each patient’s numbers and statistics. “We look at you as an individual — your age, your gender, your lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking and activity — and determine what health risks or care gaps you may have,” he says. “That really comes down to looking at percentages, statistics, and trying to come to an understanding of the patient’s numbers, values and preferences.”

Using those numbers, Dr. Harker is able to have heart-to-heart conversations with his patients about their health and their lives. Knowing numbers like weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels can help patients see the benefits of a healthier lifestyle through the understanding that there are risks they can control.

Individual timelines for wellness exams

His affinity for numbers and statistics has contributed to his philosophy on preventive care and yearly wellness exams. These annual exams have long been touted as one of the most important things patients can do — but for patients who are healthy and are keeping up with regular recommended screenings, he says, they may be unnecessary.

“What’s more important than an annual physical is a periodic conversation and health assessment,” he says. “So that’s talking about lifestyle risks, medical risks, and family history, and coming up with a personalized plan for preventing and avoiding health problems. It’s important to identify care gaps and health risks, and help patients avoid those risks.”

For example, he says, an overweight patient is at risk for diabetes and heart disease. To mitigate that risk, patients can enter a lifestyle program that emphasizes physical activity and healthy eating with an end goal of weight reduction.

Since a majority of patients do have health risks, they should discuss frequency of visits with their doctors. For some people, it might be every six months. For others, it might be every two or three years.

“One of the challenges is that the people who probably should be seeing their doctors more often because they have health problems that need to be addressed aren’t necessarily the ones coming in regularly,” Dr. Harker says. “Part of the science is figuring out how to engage people in improving their health, because the ones with the problems are often the ones least engaged in their health.”

His passion for numbers has also led him to create programs to help increase screenings and prevention of two of the most common diseases affecting the general population, diabetes and lung cancer.

Staying active in an active state

Dr. Harker enjoys being back in Colorado, where he was born. In his free time, he is quite active, taking in the Colorado scenery and topography by trail running, mountain biking, skiing, swimming and competing in triathlons. He has even competed in, and finished, an Iron Man.

He also loves spending time with his family and playing with his two daughters, who are 9 and 11. “Right now, I’m into pogo-sticking. My 9-year-old and I are in a competition to see who can jump the most times,” he says. “She’s up to 500!”

Learn more about why Dr. Harker enjoys working for CPMG.

Learn more about working for CPMG.