The Importance of Primary Care
PCPs provide total body wellness
Through the hustle and bustle of busy modern-day life, we tend to push our own self-care to the back burner.
Especially during the holiday season, we can become focused on what we can do for others and often neglect ourselves. When considering the role of your primary care provider (PCP), think of them as your selfcare reminder. The job of a PCP is both prevention and intervention. Whether you are suffering from never-relenting seasonal allergies or need a colon cancer screening, your PCP is there to provide total body wellness.
How often and for what reasons should you see your primary care physician? This varies by a patient’s age, ongoing medical conditions and/or new symptoms. However, a general rule is that adults 18-39 should see their PCP for a wellness exam once every one to two years, and those aged 40 and older should get a wellness exam at least once a year. Some conditions require more monitoring, such as diabetes, and cause patients to see their PCP more often. Patients can also see their PCP when they are ill, rather than going to urgent care or when they need seasonal vaccinations. Anyone experiencing health issues, concerns or unfamiliar symptoms should make an appointment with their PCP.
Primary care physicians manage your day-to-day health needs. Having a longterm relationship with a PCP keeps you healthier and may even lower medical costs. It has been determined that those who have a PCP have a 19% less chance of premature death than patients who only see specialists. Numerous studies have correlated the benefits of maintaining good quality primary health care with favorable health outcomes. Among these include risk reduction of all-cause cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as improved life expectancy and selfrated health. Routinely seeing a PCP can help patients spend less time in the hospital and less money on medical costs. This may save patients up to 33% during their lifetime.
Your primary care physician can teach you ways to stay healthy, keep you up to date on vaccinations, treat you when you are sick and help you get more advanced care when you need it. Your PCP wants to be your partner, sharing the responsibilities for your physical and mental health and well-being. Please remember that every aspect of your history and lifestyle contributes to your overall health. PCPs can provide continuity to your care by knowing your history and any current ailments that you are being treated for. These doctors can also catch potential health problems early if you see them regularly, and they will address the potential problems before they become severe.
We know through time and extensive studies that there are key screening exams that can monitor for potentially devastating and life-changing diagnoses. These diagnoses are much easier to treat in the early stages. Among some of these are screening tests for breast cancer, prostate disease, colon cancer and cervical cancer. While some of these screenings may not be the most enjoyable, they can be the crucial factor in discovering an abnormality or preventing future illness.
Remember, especially as the new year has begun, the most important thing is being there with your family and friends to enjoy what life is really about. While going to the doctor may not be how you imagine spending your holidays, let your primary care provider help ensure those happy times are many more to come. Make an appointment and discuss your age-appropriate screening exams with your provider. Start the new year putting you first.
Ammar Husan MD, MBA, is an assistant professor of family medicine, LSU Health Shreveport