It seems like the days of the family doctor and primary care physician and continuity of healthcare are over. With each change in your insurance policy, there is a change in provider coverage. If you don’t have insurance, then you’re not likely to walk into a doctor’s office unless you have to.
And by then, you are walking into an emergency room or a “doc-in-the-box” where no one has ever seen you before, much less has any idea of what your medical history is.
But before you give up on the idea of having a consistent relationship with a doctor because it’s just too hard, think again. Making an effort to choose and routinely visit a primary care physician can be worth it.
What is a Primary Care Physician (PCP)?
You may have seen this title on your insurance policy but not understood what a PCP does or why having one that you visit regularly can benefit you.
Primary care physicians are generalists who see patients for common ailments and chronic conditions, and they:
- May have expertise in managing multiple treatments and medications and the interactions between them.
- Often take into account each patient’s values, beliefs, and preferences when advising them on treatments and best courses of action.
- Are not specialists, who are experts in specific conditions or organ systems, but they can communicate and coordinate patient care with specialists.
Eight Benefits of Regularly Visiting a PCP
1. Care is Holistic
The main focus of a primary care doctor is holistic healthcare. Holistic healthcare encompasses a little bit of everything.
This means your primary care doctor can treat a large variety of conditions from colds to digestive issues to muscle pulls to anxiety. They can administer vaccines, perform a well-woman or well-child exam, and administer physicals.
One appointment is all it takes to discuss a variety of health problems, whether they are:
2. Support for Chronic Diseases
Chronic diseases are not only physically debilitating, but they can be emotionally debilitating as well.
Regular visits with your primary care doctor can:
- Give you much needed emotional support
- Keep track of progress
- Help you keep things in perspective
Your doctor can help you by:
- Monitoring your condition and how it is affecting your body
- Managing your tests and treatments
- Being a sounding board for your concerns
3. Increased Trust and Comfort
It’s not always easy to talk with a stranger about your health care needs and concerns. Taking the time to choose a primary care doctor you trust is important.
Scheduling regular appointments to discuss your concerns and overall health with your doctor is equally important. This will build trust and make you more comfortable so that if something “big” comes up, you already know that you are in good hands.
4. Knowledge of Your Entire Health History
How much time have you spent filling out forms and going over your and your families’ medical histories with a doctor or their staff?
Wouldn’t it be great to walk into a doctor’s office, and they already know you and your medical history? With regular visits to a primary care provider, you are building a relationship as well as making your family health history— all in one place.
5. Knowing You and Your History Can Help Catch Health Issues Earlier
Getting routine screenings will assist in finding certain symptoms of health conditions before they evolve into more significant problems.
But when a doctor knows your health history, your habits, and your personality, they can recognize some signs even earlier that indicate a potential change in your health. In that case, your doctor may catch early symptoms of dangerous conditions.
6. You Can Save Time
Have the flu? Or something more serious? If you already have a relationship with a provider, you are more likely to get an appointment more quickly than you would if you don’t. In fact, you may not even have to go in for an appointment.
If the physician knows about you and your medical history, then they may even be able to help you on the phone, through email, or a patient portal.
7. They Can Give You Referrals to Trusted Specialists
Some insurance policies have very complicated or stringent referral processes. Your primary care physician can help you navigate referrals as well as give you helpful recommendations for specialists that they know and trust.
Particularly busy specialists can be challenging to get into, but if a doctor is referring you that they are familiar with, then it may be easier to gain access.
8. Fewer Hospital and ER Visits
Research indicates that patients who regularly visit their primary care physicians are hospitalized less and have fewer emergency room visits.
If you wait too long to see a doctor or ignore symptoms, you may end up sitting in the ER or even in the hospital. Keeping up with your health by visiting your trusted PCP may help you avoid these expensive and overwhelming events.
Visiting a PCP
It is important to take the following with you to your first visit.
- Previous medical records
- Medication lists
- Insurance information
Expect to fill out forms when you get to the office if you haven’t already filled them out on the provider’s online portal.
If office visits overwhelm you or you have several things that you want to talk about, bring a list of questions or concerns. That way, you can make sure you covered everything.
Your concerns may not be able to be addressed in one visit so that additional visits may be required. Your PCP may also suggest a consultation with someone else on their team or send you to a specialist to address your needs.
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Long-term relationships can make life a lot less stressful— especially when it comes to navigating the increasingly confusing healthcare system. Contact us today!