National Primary Care Week: The Importance of a PCP
We do our best to stay healthy by making nutritious food choices and exercising regularly but getting a little help from the experts is another important step to take. It goes beyond just going to the doctor when you are sick. It’s important to have a healthcare team that also takes a proactive approach to help keep you healthy. This is where a primary care physician comes in.
A primary care physician (PCP) is a general practitioner who provides their patients with continuous medical care. They are trained to treat a wide variety of health-related problems, and they often serve as your first contact in the health system when you have a question or concern. You may contact your PCP for:
- Preventative care
- Treatment of common illnesses
- Early detection of illnesses or conditions
- Management of chronic conditions
- A referral to a medical specialist
Benefits of Having a Primary Care Physician
Aside from the points mentioned above, there are additional benefits to having regularly scheduled visits with your PCP. One example would be that you have a healthcare professional who knows the ins and outs of your overall health. This can be beneficial if you need to go to a specialist. They can not only refer you to one, but they can help you to communicate important information to the specialist to ensure you receive the best care possible.
When you see your PCP regularly, you develop a level of comfort with them. This can help you feel at ease when discussing difficult topics related to your health. You also come to trust their opinion, so it makes you feel more confident when making health decisions.
The Role of Primary Care Physicians in Hospice
It’s a common misconception that a primary care physician is no longer involved once a patient elects hospice care. However, this is not true. Most hospice organizations encourage the PCP to remain involved in the patient’s care.
Why PCP Involvement in Hospice is Beneficial
PCPs are typically the ones who have the best knowledge of the patient’s overall health. Oftentimes, they have been caring for the patient for an extended period, so they understand the patient’s health history and what may have led them to their current state.
When a PCP remains involved during hospice care, they can offer reassurance and support to the patient and their family during a difficult time. When a patient has been with a physician for a long time, they develop a level of comfort with them. Sometimes they just need a familiar face to explain things to them to make them feel at ease. This also works the other way. The PCP can offer clear communication to the hospice provider when a patient may not be able to.
Choosing a Primary Care Physician
You’ve decided to schedule regular visits with a PCP, but how do you choose the right one for you? For some people, it’s as simple as finding a doctor whose office is close to home. However, for some, there’s a lot more to consider. You want someone who you “mesh” with – someone you feel comfortable with. It’s also important to find someone who communicates clearly and effectively. When it comes to your health, there’s no room for miscommunication.
Many hospital systems have online ‘find a doctor’ tools where you can search for a specialty and location. Some allow you to filter based on various criteria such as if they are accepting new patients or if they have extended hours. This will allow you to narrow down your search based on what is important to you.
Reading reviews is also a great way to help you choose. They give you an opportunity to learn more about the physician directly from other patients.
Once you’ve made your selection, make an appointment. Just because you see them once, doesn’t mean you can’t explore other options. Maybe you liked the front office staff and nurses, but just didn’t jive with the doctor. Next time, try a different doctor in that practice. Find the doctor who is the best fit for you. It will make it that much easier to stick to scheduling to regular appointments.