Primary care physicians (PCPs) form the backbone of medical care for most individuals. They help people maintain overall health, catch problems early with screening, can refer patients to specialists, and more. In addition, with the surge of telehealth capabilities, a PCP is more accessible than ever. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the role of a PCP in your healthcare to prevent medical problems and stay in good health.
History of Primary Care Physicians
Primary care sometimes referred to as internal, general, or family medicine, is a longstanding specialty. The first PCPs were smalltown doctors fully integrated with the communities they served, often visiting patients in their own homes. These early medical providers provided care for a spectrum of illnesses and injuries and even performed surgery when necessary.
National institutions developed the practice to outline universal standards and improve access to medical resources. Modern primary care physicians train for years to practice their specialty and have access to modern resources. They operate with a clear purpose. Dr. Richard Charles, a PCP with General Physician PC, states, “We serve as the initial touchpoint to patients in the community – a great analogy is a quarterback. PCPs get the ball first and direct the play, including testing, referring patients to specialists, and providing treatment plans to keep patients healthy.”
Why is Having a PCP Important?
Dr. Charles elaborates on the importance of seeing your PCP, saying, “It matters for everyone in the community to have a home base. We provide that home base.” Primary care doctors monitor your baseline and help you stay on top of your health. They provide medical diagnoses and preventative care, refer you to behavioral health services, or aid you in getting social benefits.
It’s recommended everyone sees their primary care once a year for proper continuity. Dr. Charles states, “People’s lifestyles can change in a year. For instance, during the pandemic, people didn’t go out, they didn’t exercise, and they didn’t go to the gym. So that can impact your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure – it can make a tremendous difference.”
A more significant result of not seeing your PCP annually is that many people may miss critical medical screenings, which are crucial to finding diseases before they advance or become symptomatic. Dr. Charles says, “Routine screenings such as mammograms, colorectal screening, lung cancer screening, bone density screening – have fallen to the wayside. Screening… saves lives.”, so a visit to the primary care physician can change your life.
In addition to screenings, there are also vaccinations to consider. For example, children need help preparing their immune system for life, and adults can prevent severe illness with annual flu vaccinations. PCPs can also test for ophthalmologic issues, refer patients to therapists or rehabilitation centers, or help patients compile a set of health goals for the year.
Annual visits also mean more comprehensive care. For example, some people may need to see specialists for chronic disorders, injuries, diet, etc.; these specialists do an excellent job in their field. However, they focus on one area and aren’t monitoring total health as your PCP will. PCPs keep an eye on everything and form a holistic picture of the patient’s health.
To help patients know what to expect, Dr. Richard Charles of General Physician, PC put together this list.
- Does the patient need screening for cancer? For example, colon/prostate cancer and mammograms.
- Is the patient up to date on vaccinations? Such as COVID, the annual flu shot, and shingles.
- Is there anything else the patient needs to monitor? The doctor will take height, weight, and BMI.
- Review and discuss medical history. Depending on family history and prescriptions, they may test the renal and liver function. A PCP will also check for comorbidities.
- Does the patient have a solid lifestyle plan? Your PCP will review their sleep schedule, diet, and exercise routine.
- Are there OTC or prescription supplements/medications the patient needs?
- Does the patient need help to manage multiple prescriptions?
- Are there other providers the patient may need to see? For example, rheumatologists, psychologists, audiologists, ophthalmologists, etc.
- Are there home resources the patient may need? The doctor will help ensure their patients have proper heating, electricity, and transportation.
Telehealth – Is That an Option?
According to Dr. Charles, seeing a PCP in person for an annual visit is a must, but Telehealth has opened the door to patients who need prompt access to care but don’t have an appointment.
“Telehealth can be very valuable when people wind up in an emergency room or urgent care center where there’s a lot of high-cost, low-value care going on.” Instead of going to an urgent care facility or the ER, the patient can contact their PCP and schedule a video call. The doctor can briefly evaluate them and figure out what to do next.
Telehealth also allows patients a new medium to review test results and new prescriptions. Dr. Charles says, “Telehealth may be used to discuss test results, blood pressure, and diabetes issues. In addition, Telehealth has a tremendous value to have ancillary medical professionals, [like] clinical pharmacists, reach out about diabetics.” For example, you can speak with your PCP or a clinical pharmacist as a substitute for some appointments you have during the year.
The PCP also knows their patients’ medical history better than any urgent care clinic or ER. Urgent care or ER physician may not realize one of the prescribed medicines won’t help and may harm a person. Dr. Charles says, “I would much rather have a patient reach out to me and say, ‘Hey Dr. Charles, I have X, Y, and Z going on, rather than going to an urgent care center and getting five prescriptions when they only need two. Or a diagnosis isn’t made because they don’t know the patient or their history.” A PCP will know what medicines their patient can and can’t take. They will help individuals avoid over-prescription and pave the best road to recovery for you.
A PCP is Your Healthcare Foundation
From house visits at the turn of the century to modern telehealth appointments, primary care physicians are established as the most foundational piece of anyone's healthcare. They provide the most comprehensive and timely care for you and your family. There's no other provider that offers you the opportunity to build such a trusting relationship, either, since they will be there year after year. If you're looking for a consistent, compassionate, and accessible primary physician, turn to General Physician PC. Call today or schedule an appointment through our website to get started.
Check out our Primary Care offices and Providers. https://www.gppconline.com/specialties/medical-specialties/primary-care