When was the last time you saw your primary care physician (PCP)? Do you see your doctor a couple of times a year, once a year – or even less frequently?
As adults, we often lose sight of primary care because we’re short on time or we put the needs of our families first. We run the kids to the pediatrician for annual check-ups, sports physicals and stomach aches. But when it comes to our health, we delay visits to the doctor. Or worse, we try to self-diagnose and see specialists without calling our primary care doctors.
Here’s why it’s important to see your PCP
- Your PCP knows your complete health history. When you get regular check-ups, your PCP can keep track of health markers that may indicate the onset of chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Your PCP will also remind you when it’s time to get important health screenings, like mammograms and colonoscopies.
- Your PCP can often arrange for faster treatment. If you have a good relationship with your PCP, you may be able to get a same-day appointment or even advice over the phone. Depending on your situation, your PCP can also expedite tests like X-rays and CT scans – and help you get to a specialist faster.
- Your PCP provides continuity of care. When your PCP knows you are seeing another doctor, he or she can share relevant records so the doctor knows your history. Then, once you’ve been treated, your PCP can update your medical records for ongoing care.
- You may have fewer trips to the hospital. According to a recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, patients treated by the same primary care doctor on a regular basis go the emergency room and are hospitalized less frequently than those who change providers.
- You may save time and money overall. If you make an appointment to see a specialist without calling your PCP, chances are you may complicate your diagnosis and treatment. Without your complete health history, a specialist may recommend costly tests, refer you to another specialist or even back to your PCP.It’s also important to note that some health plans require you to consult with your PCP before seeing a specialist. So, while you may get an appointment with a specialist, you could be billed extra for not following the health plan guidelines.
By building a strong relationship with your primary care doctor, you will establish a successful health partnership for years to come. Schedule a wellness visit today and be sure to bring a list of questions about any potential health concerns or medications.
Dr. Alexandria Cooke is a family medicine physician with UT Family Practice who is currently accepting new patients. She sees patients of all ages, with a special interest in women’s health, obstetrical care, and mental health. To make an appointment with Dr. Cooke, please call 423-778-8837.