You Know Me Well: Why You Need a Primary Care Physician
While you probably don’t characterize your Primary Care Physician (PCP) as your best friend, there is probably no one who knows you as well. They keep track of your full health history, chart when you’ve been sick, record what allergies you may have, monitor your lifestyle habits, and remember what diseases you or your family members have had so that they can suggest ways to prevent you from getting ill. They keep you well by making sure you are up-to-date on your screenings and immunizations, provide advice to prevent illnesses and disease, and monitor your health to help you feeling your best. Your PCP takes care of the whole you over the course of your entire life, creates a wellness plan to keep you healthy, and treats you if you get sick.
What is a primary care physician?
Unlike a specialist, who has a narrow medical focus, or a doctor at an urgent care center who doesn’t know your health history, your PCP offers a continuum of care, or quality care over time. A PCP may be a Family Practice Doctor, an Internal Medicine doctor or a General Practitioner.
What does a PCP do? Your PCP is the first person you see for most medical problems. If you need a specialist, your PCP will determine who the right specialist is and will coordinate and oversee your care. This can be invaluable when you are ill.
PCPs perform annual wellness exams and routine screenings, treat you for non-emergency illnesses, recommend preventive health measures and— perhaps most importantly—answer your questions and concerns. All women should have a PCP, even if they also have a regular Ob/Gyn doctor.
Having a PCP helps you stay well prevent disease. Seeing the same doctor consistently fosters a strong, patient-centered relationship with that doctor. Your PCP is more likely to know what is normal for YOU and to recognize changes that might indicate you have a health problem. This ensures you receive an accurate and timely diagnosis if something is wrong, and helps you avoid needless (and costly!) medical tests, prescriptions and even visits to the emergency room.
It’s comforting to discuss your health with someone who knows you well and who takes the time to understand your health goals and preferences. People who have a primary care physician are generally more satisfied with their healthcare and are therefore more likely to stick with their doctor’s recommendations. People with chronic diseases tend to control their conditions more successfully if they have a PCP, who will help to prevent serious complications.
A primary care physician (PCP) offers a medical home for you and your family, a place where you doctor knows you personally and knows your family history.
What does a PCP do?
- Provides a first point of contact for any health needs
- Follows you through all stages of your life
- Conducts wellness exams
- Administers or oversees routine screenings
- Manages chronic illnesses
- Treats non-emergency illnesses
- Answers concerns and questions
- Coordinates care with specialists when needed
- Performs minor surgeries, such as removing skin lesions, warts or abscesses
- Serves as an advocate
- Reduces healthcare costs
Who needs a PCP?
- YOU DO!
50% of all adults have one or more chronic health conditions.
Regular check-ups with PCPs help prevent chronic disease.
1 in 5 sick people visit the ER for care they could have received from a PCP.
Chronic diseases account for 70 cents of every dollar spent on healthcare in America.
If you don’t already have a PCP, ask friends and family for referrals. Meet with the doctor face to face and find one you feel comfortable with. Before your meeting, make a list of questions you want to ask. Bring as much information as you can about your personal and family medical history.