Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician, or PCP, is an essential part of your health care routine. When you have a medical need – like back pain, a rash, or lingering cough – who is your point of contact?
Having a PCP – often called a family doctor or internal medicine physician – can benefit you greatly.
Why should I have a primary care provider?
1. Family doctors follow your life cycle. “I care for teens, middle-aged adults, retirees and people aging well into their latest years. I often see these same patients for years or even decades.” That’s typical of family practitioners. Because family doctors treat a variety of conditions, they can be your primary doctor at any point in your life. In the long term, that means you can build a lasting relationship with a family physician. And building such a relationship means.
2. They know you all about your health — and family history. When you partner with the same doctor for years, he or she gets to know your medical history inside and out. That helps with accurate diagnoses, watching for red flags regarding medications and monitoring changes through the years. But the “family” in family doctor matters, too. Seeing multiple generations of a family can help a doctor get the whole picture of your family health history. Sometimes it helps to know what’s happening at home, too. For example, when treating a child whose parent just lost a job, the doctor may consider assessing stress and anxiety.
3. Family doctors treat more than you think. Yes, family doctors do your annual check up. But they also can help you manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. They can treat infections and injuries. They also can perform minor surgical procedures. These are just a few examples, and the list goes on and on.
4. When you need a medical specialist, your primary care doctor can make the right connection. If you need to see a specialist for heart disease, sleep challenges or any other serious concern, a family doctor can help find the right specialist for your specific needs — and personality.
5. They help improve your life — and (potentially) save money. Plenty of evidence here in the U.S. and around the globe shows that care coordinated through your primary care doctor can save you money and reduce overall healthcare expenses. How? Less emergency visits, better medication management, and lower hospital admissions. And, most importantly, you benefit from a partnership that includes more than just physical health. The right doctor is your friend in matters of the mind, body and spirit.