Usually, when people go to the doctor something is “wrong.” But, there
are plenty of reasons to see a physician in a proactive manner. Forming
a relationship with a primary care provider (PCP) means that when
something does arise, you’ll feel comfortable discussing your concerns.
“You have someone to turn to you’re already familiar with, someone
you trust. You know you're going to get the information you need and the response you're looking for. It is so important to have that relationship before the time of crisis,” states Dr. Kevin Flanigan, Medical Director for Ridgecrest Rural Health Clinic (RHC).
Can’t I Just Go to Urgent Care?
Emergency departments and urgent care centers serve an important role in healthcare. Yet, it’s still optimal to also have a primary care provider who understands your health history. For example, if you visit with three different physicians through urgent care, on three separate occasions, it’s more difficult to get the “whole picture” of what might be going on.
Again, trust becomes a central factor in this patient-provider relationship. Dr. Flanigan mentions the pandemic as a good example.
“If people had a chance to have a relationship with a primary care provider, they would have known where to turn to get accurate, valid information upfront from someone they trusted. A lot of angst might have been avoided.”
What Type of Provider Is Right for You?
Frequency of visits really depends on where a person is in their stage of life. For example, newborns need consistent attention throughout the first few months. Young adults might only need an annual appointment. As individuals age, they may have specific conditions that require regular check-ins.
Various types of providers exist, such as medical doctors (MDs), nurse practitioners (NPs), and physician’s assistants (PAs). There are also different specialties that individuals can choose from based on their needs.
For instance, family medicine focuses on care for the entire span of the family unit—from children to adults to elderly. Internists specialize in adult medicine, while pediatricians care for newborns through late adolescence.
Referrals and recommendations are a great way to find a PCP, especially if the recommending person shares your same health goals. However, you should never feel “stuck” with a PCP who isn’t a good fit. It’s crucial to form a solid provider-patient connection.
“No one is going to be upset. As providers, we all know we're not the perfect match for every patient,” notes Dr. Flanigan. “It's the relationship that allows for the best possible desired health outcome. Please, find a primary care provider you can relate with, get that relationship started, and then keep it going for the decades to come.”