When was the last time you saw a primary care doctor? If you are like most people, you value the ability to see a doctor who knows you when you need him/her. That’s because people who have an established relationship with their primary care doctor have a much better chance of living a healthier life.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a primary care doctor, or you have one whom you don’t really know, you might wonder when or for what reason you would need to see that person. Well, it’s probably easier to answer the question of when “not” to see a primary care doctor, because the reasons to see one are many.
To understand the reasons for having a primary care doctor and when you should see him/her, it is helpful to know who that person is, why he/she is important, and what that person can do for you.
What Is Primary Care?
Primary care is really built on an idea. While it is usually delivered in an office setting, a primary care provider may also see you in the hospital, in a rehab facility, in your home, or in a number of other environments. The idea behind primary care is in making healthcare accessible while providing the services and tools necessary for you to be as healthy as possible.
In this regard, your primary care doctor is your first and most valuable contact in the healthcare system. This is a physician who will come to know you as an individual with unique healthcare needs. Your primary care doctor will tell you what vaccines you need and what screening tests are necessary to help prevent illness. This doctor will be your teacher, your coach, and your cheerleader as you learn how to make positive changes in your lifestyle that will make you healthier.
You’ll turn to your primary care doctor if you’re injured, sick, or managing any long-term health problems. He/she can diagnose and treat almost any health issues you have, but this person will also refer you to the right specialist when you need it. Primary care is a specialty — a very special medical service offered by only certain doctors.
Who Can Be a Primary Care Doctor?
Primary care is provided by a doctor who specializes in treating people like you. For instance, if you are under age 18, your primary care doctor might be a pediatrician. If you are an adult, you might see an internal medicine practitioner for your primary care.
Adults who are 65 years old and older have the option of seeing a geriatrician for primary care. There are also family practice doctors, who are capable of providing primary care for anyone from birth to the golden years. Some women prefer seeing their gynecologist for primary care and, for many pregnant women, their obstetrician essentially functions as their primary care doctor.
As you can see, primary care doctors are physicians who have a special relationship with their patients – and their patients know that they have someone to turn to for all their healthcare needs.
When Should You Visit?
The simple answer to this question is that you should visit your primary care doctor at least once per year. However, the complete answer is that you should also visit when this person recommends that you have a follow-up appointment, and whenever else you need him/her. In other words, primary care will always be tailored to your individual needs.
Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Health promotion and disease prevention is a mainstay in primary care. At your annual visit, your primary care doctor will ask you questions related to your health over the last year, and farther back if necessary.
You’ll also get a physical examination, including your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, etc.) taken. Your height and weight will also be measured, as these are good indicators of your overall health. If you take medications, bring a list of them or bring your actual bottles with you so that your doctor can verify what you are taking. This includes over-the-counter medications and vitamins or supplements.
This is your time to bring up any concerns you might have. Your primary care doctor is always happy to explain and evaluate anything related to your health. He/she will also teach you important information that you might not be aware of, such as when and why you are due for certain vaccines, what screening tests (such as a colonoscopy or mammogram) should be done soon, or why daily exercise is important to your health.
It’s important to realize that you and your primary care doctor are on the same team, both with the goal of keeping you healthy.
Chronic Disease Management
Sometimes, staying healthy involves managing health problems that are going to stay with you for the rest of your life. Many Americans live with chronic diseases, but this does not mean that they cannot be healthy.
Because your primary care doctor is an expert in health issues of all kinds, and because the doctor understands your individual circumstances, he/she is the best person to guide you as you live with a chronic illness. If you are diabetic, your primary care doctor will give you advice on how to keep your blood sugar levels close to normal and how to prevent complications, and he/she can also adjust your medications if necessary. If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), your primary care doctor may encourage you to lose weight, to watch your salt intake, and to take blood pressure medicine.
There are many different chronic illnesses, but primary care doctors are very well-suited to help you develop a plan that will work for you. And if you have more than one chronic health issue, your primary care doctor knows enough about you to help you manage each one while keeping the others in check. Even if you see a few different specialists for various health problems, it’s best to have your primary care doctor keep tabs on everything to prevent miscommunication or other potential problems. This doctor will make sure that you do not have medications that have contraindications with each other, thereby rendering them ineffective or even harmful when taken together.
New or Acute Problems
What if you start feeling dizzy, or if you develop a new cough? These types of symptoms can point to myriad potential problems. Having a relationship with a primary care doctor gives you the opportunity to bring the new problem to someone who already knows everything else about you.
A good example would be if you think you have a cold or the flu. A doctor who doesn’t know you may order something to treat the congestion – but your primary care doctor may already know that you can’t have that medication because you have a heart problem. This type of scenario is not that uncommon. Your primary care doctor is in the best position to find the right treatment for you.
Mental Health Issues
Primary care doctors are not just concerned with your physical well-being, but also your emotional and psychological well-being. This doctor is often the first person that people go to when they are feeling anxious or sad. Your primary care doctor understands the importance of mental health and is able to offer counsel, refer you to a specialist as needed, and prescribe medications that may help – so feel free to talk to the doctor about everything.
Trusted Primary Care Doctor in the North Bethesda, Bethesda, and Rockville Area
Dr. Adam Possner is a primary care doctor who specializes in internal medicine, providing high-quality primary care for individuals age 18 and older. If you are looking for a primary care doctor who will work with you to achieve your best health, Dr. Possner is an excellent choice.
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Possner and his philosophy of care, or if you have any specific health concerns you’d like to discuss, contact us today. We look forward to being your healthcare partner.