Get a PCP. It's as easy as 1-2-3 (4)

Get out of bed before you hit the snooze button for the third time, get yourself and the kids fed, dressed and out the door, work a full day, race to pick up the kids from school and get them to practice, then home, dinner, dishes, laundry, walk the dog, and then a quick peek at the evening news before falling into bed.

If your day-to-day life is some version of that, everything from getting an annual physical to getting a flu shot can be a hassle. My favorite flub is to run out of my prescription on a weekend night only to find out it needs refill authorization from my doctor.

And then you have to wonder – what in the world would you do if you had a really serious condition that took a lot of prompt care like diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer or –gulp– pregnancy at age 40? How would you juggle the blood work, the specialist visits and the surgery follow ups?

Get yourself a primary care physician, better known as a PCP. You might choose a family doctor or an internist. My kids have a pediatrician as their PCP and I use my OB/GYN doctor. Here are four reasons to get a PCP if you don’t already have one:

  1. I know people who know people. Through regular office visits and care of your health issues, your PCP can decide when you need to see a specialist for a health condition. This saves you time and money. A good example; I was having pretty strong and constant pain down the right side of my leg, and it went on for quite some time. I just assumed I had bone cancer, permanent nerve damage, dengue fever or some life-changing crippling disease. I put off taking care of it partly because I had no idea who to see to find out. Orthopedist, neurologist, surgeon, tropical disease specialist? I just happened to mention it to my PCP, and she sent me for some scans to see what was wrong. Diagnosis: sciatic nerve flair up. A little pain reliever and a trip to a physical therapist for some special exercises did the trick. No trip to the orthopedic surgeon required. But if it had been – my PCP would have figured it out for me and sent me to the right place.
  2. Call me sentimental. No one knows me like my PCP. She not only knows what medicines I take, but also what I’ve taken before that didn’t work, and that I don’t always take my medicine like I should. (I think she has a note about that one written in bold letters in my patient file.) She knows that I’ve never had a problem with high blood pressure, so if my numbers are high something is stressing me out. Someone who has a history of you and with you, will be better prepared to make the right call when you have a problem.
  3. Put me in, Coach. One of the main things a PCP does is help you stay well. My doctor’s office calls me and sends me an email when it’s time for my annual well-woman exam or mammogram. Our pediatrician sends postcards reminding us about sports physicals, immunizations and back-to-school check-ups. My PCP keeps me in top form – for allergy season, cold and flu season, the holiday season and opening day. Have you ever had to sit next to the guy in the hot August heat at a pre-season game who looked like he was about to have a stroke before he even sat down? Seriously, I would give the guy my doctor’s phone number, except she’s an OB/GYN and probably couldn’t do much for him. Just saying, he could use a visit with a PCP soon. Better than a trip to the ER later.
  4. Hey, it’s me again. My PCP’s office knows who I am. The pediatrician really knows who I am. I can call the office when I have a medical issue. My kids’ pediatrician will try to fit us in to see their doctor or another medical professional in the office that day or have the doctor or the physician assistant call me back. If they can’t see me, they’ll tell me what my next step should be. It could be to “take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” or it could be to go to a health clinic (earache), urgent care center (high fever) or emergency room (Umm, I think something is broken). Having that “go-to” person means I don’t have to wonder what to do, and I don’t have to make unexpected, expensive trips to the emergency room. Taking care of small health problems before they become big ones is a huge reason to have a doctor on speed dial.

So that’s my consultation on your health care. You can now move on to your search for a good PCP. You can thank me later.

Already have one? Why do you love your PCP?

Most recent update: 12/19/2017


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