Many health insurance plans require members to choose a primary care physician (PCP). But beyond that, there are many reasons why having a primary physician benefits your health.
Why Do I Need a Primary Care Doctor?
PCPs are who you call when you’re feeling unwell.
Everyone needs medical care from time to time. When an unexpected health issue arises, primary care physicians are there to offer help and advice. They should be able to see you relatively quickly, either for an in-person appointment, a telehealth visit or to provide phone advice.
PCPs are experts in preventive care to keep you healthy and feeling great over the long-term.
At your annual visit, your primary care doctor will do a physical exam to check things like your blood pressure and weight, and order lab tests to look at your cholesterol levels, blood sugar and other markers of health. Based on the results, your PCP may recommend lifestyle changes or other treatments to reverse any issues or potential issues they find. When problems are caught early, they can be better managed and potentially prevented from getting worse.
PCPs help you manage your medications.
About 66 percent of U.S. adults take at least one prescription drug(1), and about 24 percent of adults take four or more medications(2). The likelihood of using prescription drugs rises with age. Medications can potentially interact with each other. A primary care physician can help you keep track of your medications or recommend changes in medications or doses. Primary care doctors can also consult with different specialists who may have prescribed the medications to make sure you’re safe and not experiencing any unnecessary or worrisome side effects.
PCPs help you understand screening tests and vaccines.
Expert panels for major organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society and the CDC analyze the most up-to-date research to develop recommendations for screening tests and vaccines. The recommendations for any individual may vary based on specific risk factors. Your primary care doctor can keep you informed about the recommendations and any recent changes to them, and help you decide which tests are right for you.
PCPs are in your corner and become trusted partners in your health.
Over time, you will get to know your PCP doctor and your doctor will get to know you. They will know your personal medical history and your family medical history. They’ll have a sense for how other aspects of your life could impact your health – such as your work, your sources of stress or your lifestyle. This can help your doctor provide you with care that’s specific to your needs. This trusting relationship and lasting connection can help you maintain and manage your health throughout your life.
PCPs can help with mental health.
Mental health struggles are extremely common. About 10 percent of adults experience major depression in any given year, and 20 percent will at some point during their lives(3). About 19 percent of U.S. adults have had an anxiety disorder in the last year, while 31 percent will experience an anxiety disorder at some time during their lives(4). Primary care physicians are trained to screen a patient’s mental health and ask whether you are having any difficulty sleeping or experiencing other changes that could indicate you need help. Primary care physicians can treat many mental health issues, and if needed, can connect their patients with therapists, psychiatrists or other forms of support.
PCPs know how to navigate our complex health system.
If you have a chronic or serious health condition, you may need a variety of tests or care from specialists. Navigating the healthcare system can be confusing. A primary care physician can help steer you through our complex system, coordinate your care with specialists and make sure your questions are answered.