Three reasons why having a primary care physician (PCP) is necessary!

Dr.  Sanad AlShareef, D.O. is trained and certified in Internal Medicine. Questions / Comments:

Let’s start by defining exactly what a primary care physician is. A primary care physician is a healthcare professional who helps manage your health and well-being and should be your main starting point when you have any kind of ailment. PCP sometimes could mean primary care ‘provider;’ to include other healthcare professionals such as mid-levels (physician assistants and nurse practitioners). You can read more about the difference in training and level of experience between physicians and mid-levels. To be a primary care provider, the healthcare professional pursues training in Family or Internal Medicine.


Now, what are the three reasons to establish care with a primary care physician? Establishing a long-term patient-physician relationship has many benefits for you, as the patient: 

Reason # 1: You need a primary care physician to maintain your health. 

As an adult, you need to have your blood sugar, cholesterol and vitamins checked at least once to make sure your lifestyle and eating habits are keeping you out of the hospital. I have had a patient who is a big fan of pasta and sodas. Over time, he started losing weight rapidly and unintentionally. He and his family were convinced he was dying because he did not do anything differently in terms of activity and eating habits. Why was he losing weight? When I did the appropriate workup and exam, we found out that he had extremely uncontrolled blood sugar, and was diagnosed with diabetes. Once we got the blood sugar under control, he went back to feeling healthy and full of energy. The moral of the story is, you may not seek your PCP when you are healthy, but you will need your PCP when you are sick. However, your illness could be avoided with regular and routine check-ups with your PCP to guide you back on the right track. 

Moreover, if you have any family history such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes…etc., you must establish care with primary care to fully address your medical history and work on staying in the best shape possible. Lifestyle and diet can certainly have a tremendous effect on your well-being. However, stress, anxiety and depression, and many undiagnosed mental health illnesses could lead to somatic and physical symptoms. A qualified health professional would be able to identify these issues. However, a sick visit to urgent care or emergency room would not address a non-urgent or preventive measures to your health.


Reason #2: You need a primary care physician to have continuity of care. You would do yourself a huge favor by being consistent with your primary care. The familiarity and knowledge about your medical history help in providing better and personalized care. Now imagine you are establishing care with a doctor at a facility and hoping you have an easy and smooth transition of care moving forward with your appointments, but you are scheduled with a different health professional every single time you book an appointment. You would have to explain your medical history all over again with the typical 5–10 minutes of provider visit. You leave the clinic feeling frustrated and disappointed because you did not get enough time to feel comfortable and open up about your health and struggles. The provider did not know which medication you were started on or had a bad reaction to previously. Or the dynamic between you and the provider was not there. Or this new PCP did not know you were following up on a previously discussed issue, so you had to start from scratch. Now, what does a doctor need to know about you in order to help you? Normally, your PCP will want to know everything about your medical history from the first visit. You need to have your memory fresh on specifics of any medications’ dosage, frequency, strength …etc., surgeries dates and locations, and chronic medical conditions you may have. Writing this information on a notepad in a concise form might help you not miss or skip any vital information for your health. Providing a clear list of any vitamins, supplements, and medications that you are taking is important to provide to your doctor. Next, family history is tremendously helpful in addressing the necessary screening and testing you might need to avoid complications and late diagnosis. From my experience, feeling seen and heard while discussing your medical problems are extremely important for achieving the best results.

This brings us to the third reason why you should find your PCP now.


Reason #3: You should get PCP to save money. Invest in your health rather than spend your money on your illness. I can recall countless incidents in which a patient could have avoided an emergency room or urgent care visit by having a good and qualified PCP to evaluate them when needed. One visit to the emergency room would cost thousands of dollars and many bills for months after your hospital visit. Moreover, going to different doctor’s offices every time you have a sick visit or medical concerns could lead to much unnecessary testing and imaging. Once you establish your primary care, you can rest assured that you have good health backup when it is necessary. 

The ease of mind that comes with knowing you have invested well into your health is priceless and rewarding. Money comes and goes. However, your health is irreplaceable. Staying healthy, having a good continuity of care and saving money are only some of the reasons why establishing your care with a primary care physician is a necessity. I am sure you can find other reasons to join a good medical practice for your medical needs.

Stay tuned for my next post: How To Choose A Primary Care Physician as well as Why should you care about Concierge medicine?: The rise of Concierge medicine and fall of Corporate medicine.


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