Why Primary Care is the Frontline of Care

“I don’t need a primary care doctor if I’m not sick.” “I’m young.” “I’ve never had any health issues.” “I can just go to the emergency room if I absolutely need to.” – These are just some of the common misconceptions people have about primary care. The reality is, having a relationship with a primary care physician (PCP) is one of the most important relationships anyone can have. Studies from the International Journal of Health Sciences confirm regularly seeing a primary care physician is directly associated with having a longer lifespan.

More often than not, when someone without a PCP experiences any kind of health issue they either ignore it or just go to an emergency room. What they don’t realize is that this is not an effective way to manage their health. Ignoring health issues can potentially lead to more serious issues later on, and an ER is meant for treating immediate health emergencies, not underlying conditions or potential long term care needs. This is why utilizing primary care medicine is crucial. The role of a PCP is to ensure that you are receiving accurate care, from the right physician, in the right place and in the appropriate fashion that coincides with each patient’s individual needs. A physician’s main goal is to protect their patients health by:

  • – Being the first point of contact for preventing, diagnosing and managing health problems
  • – Using comprehensive knowledge of individual medical history and existing problems to provide whole-person acute and chronic care
  • – Building long-lasting, trusting relationships with patients
  • – Being a key resource for any concerns or questions that arise

Choosing a doctor can be difficult, so take your time and research your options before making a decision. Your insurance provider is a great resource that can provide you with a list of doctors in it’s network that are accepting new patients. You can also ask friends and family for referrals or consult your local hospital.

Seeing a primary doctor is just the first step – the next is building a strong relationship with them. When you begin this building process, it is essential to recognize that this relationship is a mutual learning experience. Physicians have an excess of knowledge, but they probably know very little about you specifically. The keys to establishing a trusting bond with your PCP are providing them with an accurate, detailed medical history record and, most importantly, asking questions. Time is usually limited during appointments, so having questions prepared before your visit will help alleviate any haste you or your physician may feel. Make sure that you identify what you would like addressed or accomplished at your visit, i.e. health problems, medical tests, prescriptions/changes in medication or discussing treatment options. Once you’ve narrowed down what you would like to cover at your appointment, make a list of questions you may have regarding any diagnosis, treatments or concerns. Never be afraid to ask “why”. Use the following questions as a guide to help build your own list or visit: http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/questions-after-appointment.html

  • – What is my diagnosis?
  • – What are my treatment options? What are the benefits of each option? What are the side effects?
  • – Will I need a test? What is the test for? What will the results tell me?
  • – What will the medicine you’re prescribing do? How do I take it? Are there any side effects?
  • – Why do I need surgery? Are there other ways to treat my condition? How often do you perform this surgery?
  • – Do I need to change my daily routine?