Like most people, you probably wait until you’re sick to find a doctor. But establishing a relationship with a primary care doctor before you need care can make a big difference in your long-term health.
Think of your primary care doctor as a partner focused on keeping you healthy for life.
So what’s a primary care doctor exactly? Primary care providers practice general medicine and can be M.D.s, nurse practitioners or physician assistants. They include family medicine doctors for patients of all ages, internal medicine doctors for adult patients and pediatricians for babies and children.
Here are five reasons you should consider choosing a primary care doctor:
- Your doctor knows you and your health ─ It’s like having a personal trainer for your health. Over time, your doctor gets to know you and your health history. He or she follows the latest research on disease risk factors and can work with you to set goals and help lower your individual risk. Also, your doctor is best positioned to spot a small change in your health before it becomes something bigger. Like a good coach or teacher, a primary care doctor will encourage you to make healthy lifestyle changes and help you manage chronic conditions.
- No question too big or small ─ The comfort gained from a long-term relationship with your doctor means you don’t have to let that nagging health question fester: “Is this lingering cough something I should worry about?” A primary care doctor is the person you can turn to if you have any health concern or question, no matter how trivial or overly cautious it may seem.
- Avoid getting sick in the first place ─ Regular visits to your doctor for preventive care and routine screening tests may help detect and prevent diseases such as heart attack, cancer and diabetes. A checkup with your doctor is also a good time to get a flu shot or other vaccinations and to address any changes in your health. Your primary care doctor can keep track of all these tests and immunizations, and advise which are right for you and when.
- Connect to specialists ─ If you have a health issue that requires specialized treatment, your primary care doctor can refer you to a qualified specialist. Trying to do this research and navigation on your own can be daunting. Having a trusted guide who is connected to a larger network of doctors can be helpful if a major health problem arises. If you’re referred to one or more specialists, your primary doctor can help coordinate your care.
- Access online services ─ Now you can stay connected to your doctor anytime, anywhere. When you choose a doctor in the Sutter Health network, you can sign up for My Health Online, where you can email your doctor’s office, book appointments, renew prescriptions, view test results, pay bills and more from your computer or smartphone.
When you do choose a doctor, take the time to find the right fit. The best doctor for you is one who fits your personality and communication style. Rather than wait until you have a serious health issue, schedule a preventive check-up to get to know your doctor. It’s a relationship that’s worth the investment.