You’re young, you feel good, and you seem healthy. Everything’s in working order, it seems–so do you really need a primary care physician? After all, these days your visits feel very routine and they all end the same way: your primary care doctor says things are looking good!
It might be tempting, then, to let your vigilance slip. Maybe you decide you’ll only go to the doctor when you’re sick or when something is clearly wrong (maybe you even imagine this will save you some money). But the truth is just the opposite.
A good relationship with your primary care physician is one of the best ways to keep you healthier and happier in the long run.
What Does a Primary Care Physician Do?
Even if you haven’t been to see a primary care doctor in a while, you can probably remember what it’s like: you answer some basic questions, nurses record some vital data (blood pressure, weight, height, temperature, etc), you speak to your doctor about your overall health, and maybe you get some blood work done.
Now, let’s say when you go in for all these tests, your blood pressure is a little elevated. It’s going to be important to know the answers to several questions: how long has your blood pressure been high? Is it normally a bit high or is today just a bit more stressful than usual? What’s your diet like?
You get the idea. A primary care doctor who you’ve visited routinely will already have answers to many of these questions–as well as a sense of how best to approach any treatment that might be required.
That illustrates one of the most important reasons why you really do need a primary care physician. Research has confirmed again and again that your primary care doctor will get to know you–and your general health–in a way that informs (and improves) treatment.
Four C’s of Primary Care
Broadly speaking, the most significant reasons for having a primary care doctor are usually discussed in terms of the “C’s of primary care.” The four most common “C”s include:
- (First) Contact: Whatever problem a patient presents, the primary care doctor is likely to be the first point of contact in any healthcare system. That’s true whether you have strep throat or chronic high blood pressure. Your primary care doctor, then, is going to be the one who is likely to first identify a problem and connect you to next steps.
- Comprehensive Care: Most primary care doctors offer a holistic look at your overall health. From your blood work to your vital statistics to your diet and daily habits, a primary care doctor is concerned with how everything is working together. For example, if your blood work indicates you may be pre-diabetic, your primary care doctor will help you treat the condition with diet, exercise, and medication. Your primary care doctor will also keep an eye out for other symptoms that may be associated with diabetes (such as nerve damage).
- Continuous care: You will typically see your primary care doctor at least once a year–sometimes more often than that. This means that you’ll have a continuous log of healthcare data. (The more data your physicians have, the more individualized their treatments can become.) Continuous care also means that you’ll be able to seek out care when you need it. In other words, you’ll minimize periods during which you have no medical records. More (and better) medical data lead to better outcomes in the long run.
- Coordinated care: A great deal of medical care is handled by specialists–if something is wrong with your foot, for example, a podiatrist (a foot doctor) will be the physician likely to offer treatment. So your primary care physician won’t be responsible for the entirety of your healthcare. But as the physician most focused on your general wellness, your primary care doctor will be in a good position to help coordinate care between specialists, keeping your overall health in mind as you see any other doctors for specialized care.
The “four C’s” of primary care are sometimes expanded to include other concepts, so don’t be surprised if you come across “the twenty C’s of primary care,” for example. But this list provides a good overview of what makes a primary care physician an essential part of your overall healthcare.
Simply put, when you have a primary care doctor, you’re more likely to spot problems sooner, and you’re in a better position to keep your overall health and wellness on the right track.
Getting Your Primary Care Directly
For some, the relationship you have with your primary care doctor (a very important relationship) is interrupted for reasons beyond your control. Maybe your insurance changes. Maybe you switched jobs. Maybe you’re tired of being shuffled from one primary care physician to another.
That’s why some primary care doctors have begun offering Direct Primary Care (DPC). There’s no health insurance involved in DPC clinics–so you’ll be able to keep your same doctor no matter how many times you change jobs.
Here’s how it works: at a direct primary care clinic, you pay a monthly membership fee. That one monthly payment covers nearly all of your primary care costs: wellness checks, blood work, tests, other visits–it’s all included. And because you aren’t having to check your pocketbook every time you want to schedule a doctor’s appointment, you’ll get more out of your relationship with your primary care physician.
Advantages of the DPC Model
The patient-to-doctor ratios at direct primary care clinics are usually very low. This means you’ll get to spend more time with your primary care doctor. In DPC settings, doctors even have time to take phone calls from patients! So if you’re having a health scare or have a question, you can talk it over with your primary care physician before deciding on your next healthcare steps, saving you a trip to the Emergency Department or Urgent Care clinic.
It’s that kind of relationship that makes primary care at a DPC clinic popular–and incredibly effective.
Benefits of Direct Primary Care
Seeing a primary care physician can have significant benefits, both for your health and for your budget. Some of the most common benefits for patients include the following:
- Your time with your physician is never rushed: Because the patient-to-physician ratio is kept quite low at a direct primary care clinic, appointments with your doctor are given significantly more breathing room. As a result, your doctor won’t constantly be rushing to see the next patient! This means your primary care doctor will get to know your health a little better and can become a true advocate for your health.
- It’s easier to schedule appointments: Patients at direct primary care clinics gain access to same-day appointments and flexible scheduling options. This makes it easier to schedule a visit and, if necessary, to see your physician more often!
- Communication with your physician is much easier (and more common): Have you ever wanted to email your doctor and ask them a quick question–but didn’t because you were worried about the cost? When you’re a patient at a direct primary care clinic, this type of communication is covered by your monthly membership fees. Which means you can send emails, hop on quick phone calls, and more. You’ll be able to keep better tabs on your health without running up your medical expenses.
- Your medical expenses are always clear: When your medical bills go through your insurance company, you never know exactly what you’re paying for a given procedure. This lack of clarity can dramatically impact the shape of your overall care and can sometimes even affect outcomes. When you get your care through a DPC clinic, nearly all routine care will be covered by your monthly membership fee. But when it’s not, you’ll always know precisely what your out-of-pocket expenses will be before a treatment is administered. As a patient, you’ll be able to make more informed healthcare decisions.
- Your insurance company doesn’t meddle in your primary care: When you’re a member at a direct primary care clinic, nearly all of your primary care is covered by your monthly fees. This means that your medical decisions are strictly between you and your physician–and they don’t have to be mediated by your insurance company. As a result, you can count on better care (and, usually, better prices). When treatment and wellness plans are decided between you and your doctor, you’ll generally feel more confident and comfortable with the care you receive.
The Necessity of Primary Care Physicians
A primary care doctor might not always feel necessary, especially if you seem pretty healthy. But primary care is absolutely essential to your long-term health and wellness. They can see small issues before they become big problems. And they can help you stay healthier longer.
In other words, yes–you need a primary care physician. If you want to know more about how Progressive Health Primary Care might be the best option for your primary care needs, contact us today!