Why go to a doctor if you’re completely healthy?
It may seem counter-intuitive to see a doctor if you’re feeling fine, but there are many benefits of having a primary care physician.
But first, what exactly is primary care? According to healthcare.gov, primary care services include a range of prevention, wellness, and treatment options for common illnesses. Primary care generally includes family medicine and internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. Primary care providers may also include nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.
Your primary care physician (PCP) is someone you develop a long-term relationship with, who gets to know you and your health history, and has an eye on every aspect of your mental and physical well-being. They can also coordinate your care with specialists, if needed.
Seeing a primary care doctor: What to expect
When you visit your PCP, your doctor will review your medical history and talk to you about your current health condition, diet, and lifestyle behaviors.
For example, if you’re a smoker, your PCP may discuss strategies to help you quit smoking. If you’re dealing with depression, a referral to a mental health therapist may be in order. You can also get your flu, COVID, and other types of vaccines at your primary care physician’s office.
Depending on your age (and sex), your PCP may suggest certain types of diagnostic screening tests, such as:
- Lung CT scan
If you have a chronic health condition such as COPD or diabetes, your PCP will go over your medications and any challenges you might be having. They’ll also explore ways to solve problems you may be dealing with related to your health.
Main benefits of having a primary care physician
Primary care annual well-visits are now integral to most health care plans in the United States. That means that every insured American can see their primary care provider for a preventive care visit once a year at no additional cost. This shows just how important the primary care provider is to health care in our country; that is, so important that everyone should see a primary care physician annually.
Three of the main benefits of having a primary care physician include:
1. Early identification of health problems.
Primary care doctors are often the first to diagnose longer term issues, from asthma to diabetes, and even cancer. Because primary care physicians see you on a regular basis, they will order blood work regularly, take your vital signs, and examine your body. They will take detailed notes about their findings. They’ll also ask you questions about what’s going on in your life.
- Are you dealing with a lot of stress?
- Are you eating healthy foods?
- Are you getting enough exercise?
- Are you taking your medications as prescribed?
If anything changes between visits, your primary care doctor is the one who can help identify the next course of action. Having a primary care physician on your team also means you have someone to call when things don’t feel right or you’re not sure what to do after a fall, for example. They are your personal connection to the health care system, and they truly care about your health and well-being.
2. Medication management.
With age, people tend to be on more medications than when they were younger. It also becomes more challenging for patients to keep up with taking medications as prescribed and filling prescriptions in a timely manner. Without provider oversight, this process can be even more complicated and vulnerable to delays and mistakes. A primary care physician has knowledge of all the medications you’re on and is aware of any potential drug interactions.Your PCP can also help ensure that medications are being prescribed and filled in a timely manner. With every visit, you’ll also have an opportunity to discuss how you’re doing with the medications you’re taking and make any adjustments if needed. You can also call your PCP at any time to discuss medication issues.
3. Care continuity.
If you were to need a specialist for a health condition, any test results or reports from a medical specialist would be shared back to your primary care physician. Your PCP “continues” to be your core health advocate, the one person who has their finger on the pulse of your entire health history and everything that happens when you seek help from medical specialists.In cases where there’s a chronic condition that requires ongoing specialty care, the specialist will work closely with your primary care physician. Both doctors keep each other in the loop to ensure your optimal health and outcomes.
Among the greatest benefits of having a primary care physician is knowing that someone has your back when it comes to your health. Navigating the health care system alone can be challenging and frustrating but having a PCP to guide you can provide peace of mind you might not have on your own.