Healthy Tip Tuesday: Importance of Having a Regular Primary Care Medical Provider

Does your family have a regular primary care medical provider? If not, here’s why it’s important to get one!

What is a primary care medical provider?

Jennifer Demuth, Marketing Coordinator with Trinity Hospital Twin City explains that primary care medical providers can include pediatricians (providing care for babies to young adults), family physicians (providing care throughout the whole lifespan), internists (doctors who provide primary care strictly for adults), and also nurse practitioners and physician assistants. She says these professionals provide, coordinate, and help a patient access a range of healthcare services.

These health care services can include everything from preventive services like annual wellness visits, vaccines, and screenings to care for illness. They also provide care for chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, COPD and more. These individuals can also provide referrals for specialty care when needed and can order various diagnostic tests for patients such as blood work or x-ray imaging and more.

Healthy Tip Tuesday- WebsiteIs there a relationship created when a patient has a regular medical provider?

“Absolutely,” says Demuth. “In fact, a newly published study from a team of researches from the United Kingdom recently proved that sticking to one medical provider actually results in a better quality of care and even extends a person’s life.” She notes that seeing the same medical provider regularly creates continuity of care because the patient and doctor see each other repeatedly and get to know each other. This helps patients become more comfortable sharing more information about their medical symptoms and lifestyle habits. “Seeing the same provider repeatedly gives patients the opportunity to build a relationship of trust that leads to better communication, better patient satisfaction, and better adherence to medical advice,” adds Demuth. “Patients tend to talk more freely to doctors and medical providers they know, and doctors then understand them better and can tailor their advice and treatment better.”

Should you visit your primary care provider regularly?

“For the best health outcomes, it is recommended that patients see a medical provider when they are sick, several times a year for patients who have chronic conditions that must be closely monitored like asthma or diabetes, and for a wellness visit at least once a year,” says Demuth.

She notes that wellness visits make it easier to detect potential medical problems early when there is still a chance to possibly reverse a disease process, such as Type II Diabetes, and before symptoms of an illness become severe. Annual wellness visits also allow patients to discuss possible vaccines that may be needed as well as any age-appropriate screening tests.

Can a family physician typically provide care to the whole family?

Demuth notes there are specific specialties that focus on different stages of a person’s life. “Pediatricians typically provide care for babies to young adults, family physicians provide care throughout the whole lifespan, and internists typically provide primary care strictly for adults,” she explains. “Additionally, primary care nurse practitioners and physician assistants also care for patients according to their specialty in adult, family or pediatric medicine.” Overall, she encourages you to always ask a medical office in what age range they typically cover.

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What should you look for when choosing a family physician?

Choosing a medical provider is one of the most important choices a family can make, so it’s important to do your homework.

  • Check for the obvious items by making sure the provider you are considering is in the network or accepts your insurance or medical card.
  • Ensure the provider offers appointment times that can fit your schedule and is at a location that is close to your work and/or home.
  • Research the provider through online searches and by asking for reviews from family, friends, and co-workers.
  • The Scripps Health non-profit health newsletter recommends asking the following five questions:
    1. What are the medical provider’s qualifications and experience?
    2. Which accredited hospitals does the provider use?
    3. What is the physician/provider-patient communication style?
    4. How does the provider’s office handle phone calls?
    5. What if care is needed on short notice or after hours?

Demuth adds that if you set up an initial appointment with a medical provider and do not feel comfortable, you should not feel obligated to continue your care with that provider. “Do not be afraid to research again and find a medical provider more suitable to your unique needs.”

Additionally, Demuth notes that while it’s good to ensure our children get to see the same medical provider as often as possible, as busy parents, it is not always possible. Family members often get sick when regular medical officers aren’t open. “During those times, it’s OK to seek care at an urgent care center with extended hours,” she says. “However, I would recommend getting a copy of your urgent care center medical records to your regular medical provider as soon as possible. It’s so important that your regular medical provider have all of your records so he/she can track any trends in your health.”


Healthy Tip Tuesday is a exclusive informational series brought to you by Trinity Hospital Twin City.

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