No matter how healthy you are, or what age you are, there are lots of reasons why you need a primary care doctor.
Like the comfort of going back to your childhood home, there’s a sense of reliability in having a doctor as your health “home”. Physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners all offer primary care, specializing in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN).
So, what do you see a primary care doctor for?
A primary care doctor can be your go-to for everyday health care. They can be a familiar face for all your preventive care and much more. You can depend on them when your child catches the seasonal flu or when you want to discuss birth control options.
Having a single contact for most of your healthcare needs isn’t just convenient but extremely beneficial. Read on to learn the advantages of having a primary care doctor.
What are the benefits of primary care doctors?
1. You’ll stay healthier
A 10-year study, which was led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, found that greater access to primary care was directly related to a longer life expectancy.
Why does having a primary care doctor make you healthier? Two of the biggest benefits of a primary care doctor involve preventive care and management of chronic conditions.
Identifying and treating health issues early through preventive care
What is preventive care and how does it work? Preventive care is all the things you do when you’re healthy to help prevent getting sick.
Preventive care helps prevent illness or disease. It also allows for a condition to be identified earlier when it’s easier to treat, which leads to better health outcomes. Those who see a primary care doctor regularly stay up to date on important preventive care such as:
- Annual checkups for adults and well-child visits for kids from birth to age 18
- Immunizations such as childhood vaccinations or vaccine boosters, and annual flu shots
- Cervical cancer screenings and breast cancer screening mammograms for women
- Prostate cancer screenings for men
- Colorectal cancer screenings for both men and women
Management of chronic conditions
When you work with a primary care doctor to manage a chronic condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes, the condition is usually better managed. Regular checkups help monitor any changes in your condition and identify new issues earlier. This can mean you’re less likely to have complications that lead to being hospitalized or surgery.
2. You can lower your health care costs
Because preventive care is strongly tied to better health and lower costs, many preventive care services are completely covered by insurance – often with no copay. By visiting your primary care doctor for routine physicals, screenings and immunizations, you’re more likely to avoid costly prescriptions and care later on.
But even though preventive care is usually covered, studies show that Americans are only getting about half of the preventive care they should. In addition to the health benefits, adults who have a primary care physician will typically have 33% lower health care costs.
For example, depending on your overall health and risk factors, your primary care doctor may recommend a diabetes screening starting around the age of 40. As you may know, diabetes is a disease where your blood sugar levels are too high, which can cause damage to blood vessels and organs, as well as lead to other serious health conditions.
A diabetes screening measures your blood sugar levels before any symptoms are present. This helps catch prediabetes or diabetes earlier, when it can be more easily managed by lifestyle changes rather than costly medications. This also helps reduce the risk of complications that may drive up insurance premiums and lead to high out-of-pocket health care costs.
3. You’ll save time
Saving time is another benefit of primary care doctors. That’s because they can address multiple health needs in one appointment. Your doctor can often provide a checkup, screening and any immunizations in just one visit.
And while you’re there, you can ask your doctor any question you may have about your health. By taking full advantage of your primary care doctor’s wide breadth of expertise, you can get your health questions answered – and in some cases, even receive treatment that day – without needing an additional appointment.
4. They’re your guide to the health care system
While primary care doctors manage many acute and chronic conditions, many of us will need specialized health care at some point in our lives.
Whether you need to see a dermatologist, or your child needs an allergist, your primary care doctor can help connect you to the right specialist. They’ll coordinate with your specialty doctors to ensure that the right information is shared, nothing is missed and no tests are duplicated.
Navigating the health care system on your own can feel overwhelming. With a primary care doctor, you don’t have to go it alone.
5. You’ll have a trusted health advocate and advisor
Your primary care doctor is not only a health expert, but your health advocate.
The relationship that you develop with your primary care doctor can be valuable in many ways. For one, the better your doctor knows you and understands your health history, the better they can care for you and help guide your long-term health. Getting to know your doctor can also help you feel more comfortable sharing personal information and asking questions.
So, what should you ask your primary care physician? Anything and everything.
There’s no health topic that’s off limits. It’s your doctor’s job to help you stay healthy. Even if you’re feeling embarrassed, chances are that other patients have asked similar questions before.
And remember, when you have a primary care physician, you’re not starting from square one every time you see a doctor. Your doctor already knows you and your health history, so you won’t have to explain the same things over and over at every appointment.
How to find a primary care doctor
We have a lot more control over our health than we think, and having a primary care doctor as your health “home” can have a big impact.
But how do you find the right doctor for you, your family or your child? What’s the difference between a pediatrician and a family doctor? Do women need both an OB-GYN and a general physician? Learn more about the different types of primary care doctors and the care they offer.
Want to make an appointment? Whether you live in the Twin Cities, central Minnesota or western Wisconsin, our doctor match tool makes it easy to find a primary care doctor near you.
You can enter your zip code to filter doctors in your area, along with other preferences such as doctor type, specialty or language. Click the button below to get started.