When was the last time you saw your primary care physician? If your response to that is, “who?” then it’s time to have a talk.

How would you feel if I told you there was one simple step that could increase your chances of living a long, healthy life and lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke? Well, there is such a step — get yourself a primary healthcare provider! The data are clear: studies show that the more primary care providers there are in a community, the healthier the population, the longer the average lifespan, the fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions, and even a lower number of surgeries.

If you’re young and generally healthy, you might not consider yourself the type of person who needs a primary care provider (PCP). After all, your schedule is more than likely packed, and you may believe the only reason to visit a doctor’s office is when sickness strikes. But the truth is, building a relationship with a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant who knows your health from top to bottom is an essential part of maintaining your well-being.

Even if you’ve only ever had a transactional relationship to the healthcare system (i.e. you get sick, you see someone new, you get better, you never see that person again), it’s worth finding a PCP who can act as your healthcare quarterback. That’s because the key to staying at the top of your wellness is to be proactive about preventive care. That includes everything from getting the right screening tests and immunizations to setting goals around sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress management, and more. Having a PCP on your side who thinks about you as a whole person can be a gamechanger in keeping your body and mind in shape.

The nitty-gritty of what a PCP can do

Your primary care provider can not only diagnose and treat the vast majority of your acute health issues, from coughs to stomachaches to chest pain to dizziness but — surprise! — your PCP can also help you handle any of the following issues:

  • Chronic health condition management — hypertension, diabetes, etc.
  • Immunizations, gynecological services, screening procedures, and maintaining a screening schedule that’s appropriate for you for things like breast or colon cancer.
  • Preventive care strategies to keep you healthy, reduce your risk of sickness, and keep you feeling your best.
  • Personalized, tailor-made care that works for you. Because your primary care provider gets to know you over a long period of time, you are not just another number, but an individual with unique health goals and concerns.

PCPs can generally manage most of their patients’ issues without referring them to specialists. If you ever do need a specialist, your PCP will be able to find the right match for you and coordinate your care with them. From a practical standpoint, this saves both time and money. But even more meaningful is having someone on your healthcare team who knows you and can provide ongoing, quality care.

And depending on where you go for primary care, your provider may be able to offer some specific services that fit your needs. Many of the PCPs at SEVHS have unique skills, such as transgender hormone prescribing or HIV management. They can provide education and counseling on useful topics, such as nutrition.

Finding the right fit for you

Overall, your PCP should really be your first stop for everything related to your health; an expert on you and your health goals, and your guide to navigating a sometimes-complicated system.

Continuity of care leads to better care. With a primary care provider, you always have someone you can turn to for advice, someone who knows your health history and therefore knows when something may be serious or not.

So how exactly does someone go about finding the right person to fill those shoes? There are plenty of things to consider when evaluating your options, but here are some important pieces of the puzzle:

  • Personality
  • Experience
  • Clinical style/specialties

It’s powerful to have someone who always has your back and supports your health journey throughout your life. Ready to find your PCP? Make an appointment today. Click here to find your nearest SEVHS location.