4 reasons why you should have a primary care provider.

by Dr. Emile Rochon, MD
May 13, 2020

Many people unfortunately wait until they’re sick to find a doctor. Delaying preventative care or avoiding the doctor’s office altogether; however, may set you up for some unexpected health complications in the future.

That’s why it’s important to have a primary care provider (PCP). A primary care provider can be a doctor or a nurse practitioner who specializes in family medicine or internal medicine. I’m a family medicine physician practicing at MedStar Medical Group at Navy Yard. My goal is to help you stay healthy from childhood through the rest of your life.

Considering you’ll probably see your primary care provider more than any other type of doctor, establishing this relationship early is critical. Medical studies show that people who have a primary care physician experience better health outcomes and a longer life span.1

Do you have a primary care provider? If you do, studies show you are more likely to live a longer, healthier life. Family medicine physician Dr. Rochon shares four reasons why on @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog: https://bit.ly/3ctXhZJ.

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Here are four reasons why you should have a primary care provider.

1. Your primary care provider knows you better than any other doctor.

There are very few healthcare providers who know you as well as your primary care provider. Hopefully, your primary care provider is someone you see consistently every year, which means they know your:

  • Health goals
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Medical history
  • Medications
  • Family health history
  • Personality
  • Preferences

Because they know so many details about your personal life, your PCP is equipped to help you prevent disease through proactive health screenings and lifestyle modifications. And, when something is wrong, they are more likely to catch it early because they are actively monitoring your health.

2. They can care for you throughout your entire life.

Your primary care provider is with you through it all, from your high school sports physicals and flu shots to your first cancer screening and beyond. Whether you’re a teenager, in your mid-30’s, or an aging adult, your PCP is trained to care for your health over time.

That means they can help you:

  • Stay up to date on routine screenings (e.g. colonoscopies)
  • Manage your risks of developing a chronic disease
  • Catch health issues early before they progress into something more serious
  • Make lifestyle changes (e.g. stopping smoking)
  • Address any side effects to medications you’re taking

Whether you’re due for a routine screening or you’re experiencing acute symptoms related to a disease, your PCP can observe changes from appointment to appointment which means…

3. They can help you prevent disease.

Primary care providers are experts in a broad range of conditions, especially when it comes to chronic disease, including:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

People don’t always experience symptoms during the early stages of chronic disease, but your doctor or nurse practitioner knows exactly what to look for. Since they know the results of your routine check-ups and your risk of any hereditary diseases, they are already actively looking for early signs that may indicate a problem.

As a result, PCPs can help you reduce your risk of developing a chronic condition. They also assist in mitigating potential disease complications by:

Managing your chronic conditions. Your primary care doctor won’t leave you to manage your diabetes—or any other chronic condition—on your own. Rather, they’ll work with you to develop a treatment plan that considers your preferences, lifestyle, and condition. From support managing side effects from medication to regular follow-up, your PCP will help you prevent your condition from worsening.

Supporting your lifestyle changes. When you have a chronic disease that can be improved through diet, exercise, and other healthy habits, your primary care provider can help you to take small steps towards better health.

Related: Read 4 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Heart Disease

Referring you to a specialist. When something comes up that requires a more specialized approach, your primary care doctor can reach out to their network of specialists for a referral. For example, if your annual mammogram comes back abnormal, they can connect you with a breast health specialist or oncologist who can do further advanced testing.

4. They can keep you out of the hospital.

By catching signs of disease early, your PCP can ensure you receive treatment before it turns into something more serious. People who don’t have a primary care provider are more likely to end up in the emergency room, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

How to find the right primary care provider.

There are lots of reasons why you should have a primary care provider. But how do you choose a doctor or nurse practitioner?

Most employers allow you to pick or change a primary care provider within your health insurance during what’s called “open enrollment”. Typically, this occurs when you are first hired and again at the end of the calendar year.

The internet is a great place to research PCPs in your network because you can read reviews and ratings about other people’s experiences. Many MedStar Health providers even have their ratings included on their online profile pages found at MedStarHealth.org/FindADoc.

Researching your primary care provider options allows you to think carefully about the qualities that are important to you. You may want to consider looking for comments or ratings related to values that include:

  • Good listening
  • Communication (Clear and easy to understand)
  • Team-oriented
  • Personable

Don’t wait to talk with a primary care provider.

During these challenging times of COVID-19, you may be inclined to delay visits to the doctor as you take steps to limit any exposure to the virus. But even during a pandemic, your ongoing health needs remain of great importance.

That’s why MedStar Health is offering virtual care through MedStar Health Video Visits. These scheduled video visits are designed to provide a secure way to keep up with medical appointments from the safety of your home, including ones with your PCP. You can schedule a MedStar Health Video Visit by calling your provider’s office.

Interested in MedStar Health Video Visits?
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Footnotes

1. Stanford University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School

Category: Living Well     Tags: MedStar HealthMedStar Health Video Visitsprimary careprimary care providerWellness