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Primary Care: Why it Matters

Healthy Lifestyle

Have you ever had that dream where you forgot to study for a final exam? Even worse – for a class you rarely attended?

Your heart starts racing, you begin to sweat, you just know you’re in serious trouble – trouble that could have been avoided if you studied, went to class regularly and were more familiar with the material.

While your health is much more complex than a bad dream, primary care, in a sense, kind of works to prevent one. Regular visits with your health care provider can set you up for success – and serious health “nightmares” can often be avoided.
 

Why you need primary care

Believe it or not, research shows that having a primary care physician (PCP) can help you live longer by decreasing your risk of dying from heart disease, cancer or stroke. PCPs can treat minor illnesses and problems before they turn into serious ones.

An added bonus? Your doctor can save you money! Health care costs tend to be lower for people who have PCPs keeping tabs on their health and coordinating their care.

Keep in mind that not all providers are doctors. Age, health and preference usually determine what kind of professional you see for primary care. And while some people choose to see other primary care providers, there may come a time when a doctor’s expertise is needed. Let’s break down the choices:
 

Types of primary care doctors

Family medicine physician

A family medicine physician is able to provide comprehensive medical care, health maintenance and preventative services to patients of all ages.

Reasons to see a family medicine physician can include but are not limited to:

  • Well checks
  • Health screenings
  • Sports physicals
  • Sick visits
  • Immunizations
  • Chronic condition management
  • Minor outpatient surgery
  • Smoking cessation

Some families prefer to have every member – mom, dad, brother, sister and baby – visit the same physician. Your doctor’s familiarity with your family dynamic may be important when it comes to your care and treatment.

A patient who chooses to see a family medicine physician should visit that provider at least once a year.

“Health care is becoming more and more complex,” said Dr. James Ramig, a family medicine physician at Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court. “Family medicine physicians are here to help navigate those complexities – to be a patient’s advocate in all health-related matters, including the appropriate use of consultants, health services and community resources.”


Nebraska Methodist Health System has roughly 80 family medicine providers. Find one near you!
 

Internist 

An internal medicine provider generally sees adults with multiple chronic diseases or conditions. He or she focuses on the complex relationship between disease processes in the older person.

Reasons to see an internist can include but are not limited to:

  • Adult preventative physicals
  • Sick visits
  • Respiratory disease
  • Diabetes
  • Vascular and heart disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Joint and arthritic problems
  • Endocrine and hormonal problems
  • Mental health concerns
  • Neurological problems

Some patients prefer to see an internist – someone who is trained to handle whatever problem arises – no matter how common or rare it might be.

Adult patients are expected to see their internist on a yearly basis.


“The primary goal of a primary care physician is not only to collaborate between subspecialists and focus on management of chronic diseases, but to emphasize the importance of preventative health care and disease prevention,” said Dr. Lindsay Northam, an internist at Methodist Physicians Clinic 192Dodge.

 

Nebraska Methodist Health System has roughly 35 internal medicine providers. Find one near you!
 

Pediatrician

A pediatrician sees patients from birth to approximately 18 years of age. He or she can diagnose and treat childhood illnesses and offer specialized behavioral counseling to parents and caregivers as children grow.

Reasons to see a pediatrician can include but are not limited to:

  • Well checks
  • Sick visits
  • Sports physicals
  • Behavior or mood issues
  • Chronic condition management
  • Immunizations

“Primary care is so important, because the habits and lifestyle choices that a child becomes accustomed to early in life often influence their health and choices into adulthood,” said Dr. Rosann Nichols, a pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court.

Some parents prefer to entrust their child’s health with a physician who has a lot of experience in recognizing and treating childhood issues. If your child was premature or has a chronic health condition, a pediatrician may provide more specialized care.

During infancy, your child should see his or her primary care provider every two to three months. As your child nears preschool and beyond, a yearly visit is generally sufficient.

Nebraska Methodist Health System has roughly 20 pediatricians. Find one near you!
 

Building a relationship

Again, it’s important not only to have a PCP, but to build a relationship with that provider.

This goes for children:

“A good relationship can help pediatricians determine which treatment options may be the best choice for each individual child,” said Dr. Nichols, MD.

And adults:

“If a patient does not feel that they can trust their physician or have a good relationship,” said Dr. Northam, “there is often not clarity or full disclosure when it comes to medical concerns.”

Don’t be shy. A relationship with your doctor isn’t only about illness and injury. Show your PCP pictures of your dog or kids. Tell him or her what interests you – what defines your life and happiness.

“The most successful relationships with friends and family are built on clear communication and a strong interpersonal bond,” said Dr. Ramig. “I encourage people to get to know their primary care providers. And give your providers a chance to get to know you.”

So, what do you think – has it been a while since you’ve seen a doctor? Are you overdue for a checkup? Make an appointment with one of our primary care providers today.

Jessica Gill

About the Author:

Jessica Gill, a Content Strategist for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

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