- by Medical Group of Pennsylvania
As children, many of us visited our family physician or pediatrician every year for our annual checkups and vaccines. As adults, we tend to avoid visiting doctors unless we’re sick and in need of a prescription. Unfortunately, this isn’t optimal for our health and long term well-being. Having a primary care physician who is a trusted source of medical knowledge and understands your family history can help you stay healthy and catch problems early.
What is a Primary Care Physician?
A primary care physician (PCP) is considered your main physician. He or she is responsible for working with patients on the majority of their health care issues including annual wellness exams, treating illnesses like ear infections and colds and managing chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. PCPs also collaborate with specialists and laboratories for patients whose medical needs reach beyond the PCP’s scope. Primary care physicians may also be referred to as family doctors or general practitioners and fall into the categories of internal medicine, family practice or family medicine.
The Benefits of a PCP
For decades in the United States, primary care physicians have been the doctors patients had the closest relationship with, many times working with the same physician for years or even decades. By building this relationship, patients have a sense of trust in their physician and are more willing follow their medical guidance. Doctors who understand your medical history and family history are better prepared to guide your health decisions including if you are a candidate for medical screenings like early mammograms or colorectal cancer screenings.
The Current Healthcare Landscape
Healthcare in the United States has undergone major changes in the past decade. The increasing popularity of retail clinics and telemedicine has impacted primary care physicians. Researchers found that 45% of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed had no primary care provider, compared to 28% of 30- to 49-year-olds, 18% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 12% of people 65 years and older.
Time will tell if Millennials will age in to using primary care doctors. As they age and begin to experience more complicated medical problems, Millennials may want and need a medical home to keep their health history connected and view all the pieces of the puzzle together.
How to Find a PCP
It’s important to find the right primary care physician for your needs. According to the National CPR Association, the top four characteristics people want in a PCP are respect, understanding, communication and collaboration. It’s also important to make sure your new physician is covered by your health insurance, or understand there may be increased costs associated with your visits.
You can begin your search with our Find a Doctor tool by searching for Family Medicine, Family Practice, Internal Medicine or Primary Care practices. Once you’ve found a practice you are interested in, review their website and learn more about their staff. Find the physician you believe you’d be most comfortable with and schedule your appointment. To be the best patient you can be, study these tips from a physician before your visit.