We’re all familiar with the adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But, as we get older and our health becomes a bigger priority, the importance of having a primary care physician (PCP) becomes greater. It can contribute to better overall health and even help us live longer. Understanding our own individual needs can become more complex as we age. In fact, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, eight in ten Americans turn to the Internet to look for health information. While the Internet can be helpful, connecting with a primary care physician can ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, and help avoid some of the anxiety that comes with information overload.
No one is better equipped to help us navigate our health as we age than a good primary care doctor. He or she won’t just treat health problems, they can prevent disease by identifying risk factors, manage chronic disease care, and make referrals to medical specialists when needed. PCPs are responsible for providing preventative care, teaching healthy lifestyle choices, and identifying and treating common conditions. By finding and diagnosing problems early, PCPs help us live long and healthy lives.
Importance of Having a Primary Care Physician
In addition to treating illnesses or other medical conditions, here are a few of the benefits you’ll experience from establishing a relationship with a primary care physician.
Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician will allow them to understand your medical history on a deeper level. When your doctor is more familiar with your baseline, changes become more apparent. This will help your PCP provide personalized care and will save you time from having to explain your medical history each time you seek medical care. Further, you’re more likely to feel comfortable disclosing your medical issues to someone you trust will give you high-quality care.
Primary care physicians will screen you for illnesses and diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Older adults are at a higher risk of developing chronic conditions that need to be managed with medication or other ongoing programs. Having a good primary care physician ensures that you will be screened for common conditions and have a plan to follow. Primary care physicians will make sure you have medication and immunization refills, which can become more difficult without a PCP.
Primary care physicians should be one part of your larger care team that together, meets your individual needs. Care teams usually include registered nurses, patient care associates, nurse practitioners, patient access staff, and physicians. Choosing a primary care physician that’s right for you will ensure better quality care and continuity across your care team.
What Does a Primary Care Physician Do?
Primary care providers cover everyday health concerns, give medical advice, and are available to answer questions about infections, chronic conditions, and medicines. By establishing a primary care physician, they will come to understand your current health needs, medical history, your family’s medical history, your treatment preferences, as well as your personality and lifestyle. Because this person will inherently become an integral part of your health, there’s legitimate importance in having a good primary care physician
How to Choose a Primary Care Provider
Finding a primary care physician you like and trust can feel like a daunting task. After all, our PCPs are responsible for helping us navigate health-care-related decisions, treating us, providing education and advice, and managing our overall wellbeing. Whether you’re looking for a new primary care physician or assessing your current one, here are a few things to consider:
● Find doctors in your network. If you have Medicare or another form of health insurance, you can start by finding an in-network doctor to avoid any unnecessary costs. To find a primary care physician within your network, you can do a simple search on the Medicare website or call your patient care advocate for those with other insurance plans.
● Ask your family and friends. Asking those you trust, like your friends and family, to recommend their primary care physician is a great place to start. You can also ask other healthcare professionals to give you information on some of the providers you are considering.
● Evaluate your transportation needs. As we age, finding transportation to doctor’s appointments can take some planning, especially for those who no longer drive themselves. As you search for a primary care physician, it’s important to factor in travel time, distance, and parking circumstances. If it’s too far away, you might consider moving on to your next choice.
● Assess your doctor’s availability. During your search, you might consider looking into your doctor’s office hours and weekend availability. Some practitioners offer telehealth appointments, which will allow you to be assessed by your doctor in the comfort of your own home via video conferencing platforms.
● Evaluate your doctor’s expertise. Primary care physicians can have a wide variety of expertise. For instance, pediatricians, OB-GYNs, and geriatricians are considered PCPs even though their specialties are vastly different. As you look for a PCP, make sure they are specifically trained to deal with your needs.
How to Prepare for Your First Visit
Once you’ve found a doctor that’s right for you, you can start preparing for your first visit. Many experts suggest bringing a list of your prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements and noting the dosage. It can also be helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to the appointment. Your companion can help you remember questions you may have wanted to ask, and take notes during your visit if needed. It’s best to let your companion know how they can help support you before you arrive at the appointment. And, always remember to come to your visit with an open mind. Sharing major life events, stressors, or other changes can help your doctor give you the care you need.
Living Well at Maplewood Senior Living
Maplewood Senior Living facilities offer top-tier medical services to ensure all residents receive the health care they need to live long and healthy lives. Whether you’re searching for a new primary care physician or are interested in learning about your options, our attentive staff will be with you each step of the way. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.