Many U.S. adults don’t see the doctor as often as they should. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, you may be among them. Ideally, everyone should check in with a doctor at least once a year for a physical, even if you are outwardly healthy and relatively young. However, having a primary care doctor offers more than a place to get your annual checkup (but don’t discount the value of that single yearly visit). Those who do have a dedicated primary care physician (PCP) are less likely to visit the hospital or ER and generally have better health thanks to a consistent schedule of preventive screenings and management of existing chronic illnesses.
What does a primary care physician do?
PCPs are generalists, which means they know a little bit about just about everything related to health. Many PCPs fall under the umbrella of family medicine, but you may also find a primary care doctor who is focused on women’s health or geriatrics. Any primary care provider will be able to prescribe medications, perform annual physicals and preventive health screenings, address acute illnesses, and help manage chronic health conditions. You can think of your primary doctor as a homebase for your medical care—you can see them on an ongoing basis to check in and whenever you need non-emergency care to address specific health concerns.
Benefits of Having a Dedicated Primary Care Doctor
If you’ve made a habit of only seeking medical care when you’re ill or injured, you may not realize the complete benefits of having a dedicated physician as your primary care doctor. Here’s a closer look at why having a dedicated care provider is so important.
Your doctor can get to know your medical history. When you visit the doctor at least once per year, they’ll get to know more about your medical history, family history, lifestyle, and personality. These details are important to understanding your health risks and daily habits, and they can inform your physician on how to provide more personalized, effective care that meets your needs.
You may feel more comfortable approaching your primary care doctor about certain medical conditions. As your physician gets to know you better, you may feel more comfortable with them. That can be important when approaching sensitive health topics like sexual health and mental illness, which are both areas where your PCP can offer help.
Your primary care provider can refer you to specialists. While primary care doctors have a wealth of knowledge and available services, they will refer patients to specialists as needed for certain conditions. Often, it is much easier to book an appointment with specialists like cardiologists with a physician referral, and in some cases, a referral is required by insurance.
Your doctor may help coordinate care and manage your prescription medications. If you do go to the ER or urgent care, your next follow up appointment will likely be with your primary care provider rather than at the hospital. That’s because your primary care doctor is essentially a care coordinator who will help you make sense of the care you receive from other providers and ensure that all your medications are safe to use together and that you’re getting all the medical screenings you need when you need them.
While it is important to have a primary care doctor, sometimes you need immediate care without a wait. In those moments, MeMD is there for you. Request a virtual visit with one of our providers anytime, anywhere. We can help supplement your care with men’s and women’s health services, mental health care, and preventive wellness services.