As a mother of four children, I find medical visits can be time consuming. Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about finding your “medical home”, getting a Primary Care Provider (PCP) and making sure our wellness visits are taking place. What is the big deal about having a primary care provider? Why not just take my kids to the local Prompt care office when they are sick? You might say to yourself, I don’t have to make an appointment for immediate care clinic visits; I just need care for today. Prompt Care and Emergency Medicine practitioners’ main focus is on the problem at hand, in the moment. Most often Prompt Care and Emergency Department Providers are able to help you for a short, set time.
PCPs come in many different shapes and sizes. Family practice doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants provide care for people of all ages. Internal medicine doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants also make great PCP’s for adults. Don’t forget pediatricians whose specialty is children under the age of 18, who partner with a pediatric physician assistant or nurse practitioner to provide care continuity.
First of all, a primary care provider (PCP) does much more for you than screen for obscure disorders. Primary care doctors are the centers of your medical information. They know everything you are willing to share with them about you. They know what issues your mother or “Great Aunt Jessie” struggled with and understand you might be at risk for the same issues. They have documentation on the immunizations you have received and those you have not. They have the blood work and other test results done by their office, and by any specialists, you may have. They know your medical, surgical and mental health history and manage your “problem list” (an active list of problems you have or have had that might affect what is going on with you now). They might even know your medical choice history based on your religious beliefs, if you have chosen to share it with them.
A PCP will, in fact, screen you for common ailments and even though you had your 18-24 month old child screen and more as you have aged, there are aliments which hide unseen, and may affect your health immediately or later in life.
Primary care providers look beyond the colds and flus, strains and sprains, asthma and allergies of a prompt care setting. They do assist with common acute ailments. PCPs are not only the keepers of all your information, they also know what specialists and what medication changes each of those doctors have been making, and will help you sort all the information out when it gets overwhelming for you. They are knowledgeable by continuing their education on issues like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious diseases, and lung conditions… the list is endless. They provide experience and knowledgeable care.
PCPs are often the first one who will attempt to manage pain issues. If you have pain that has lasted more than 2-3 weeks, a PCP will work with you to find the source of that pain, and discuss options to help ease the pain. If the available resources he or she has do not help, they have the ability to refer you to a specialist.
I have a daughter who has multiple medical issues. In 2015 and 2016, she saw at least 15 different medical providers in at least 10 specialties. She saw therapists of several types, gastroenterologists, gynecologists, neurologists, cardiologists, geneticists, neurosurgeons, orthopedic specialists, rheumatologists… you get the picture. Each of those doctors in four major cities and unique health care systems hours away from our community ordered their own tests. Not to mention the tests performed locally. I personally try to keep a copy of the test results on hand, for the times specialists want results from the specialist ordered tests. Let’s face it: my daughter doesn’t love being stuck with a needle. If I am unable to locate the test results, I am able to pick up the phone and ask her PCP for a copy, because he/she is her primary care provider.
You never know what the future may hold. You might think the medical emergencies and chronic health issues seem to pass your family by. When an emergency or health issue does arise you will want a doctor, physician assistant, and/or a nurse practitioner standing by who will know you, and be able to assist in connecting you with the surgeon, the specialist, or the radiological care you need. Take a good look at the PCP’s near you. Make one or two visits a year to visit your PCP, keep in touch about your health. Get your yearly physical and health screenings, update your health information, and ultimately discuss preventive health strategies with your PCP to help you make informed decisions.
Carol Gale is a physician assistant at Perry Memorial Walnut Clinic. She has been practicing medicine as a primary care provider in family, pediatric, internal medicine, urgent care, emergency medicine, inpatient, nursing home and community health settings since 1996 when she graduated from Wichita State University’s Physician Assistant Program. At the Perry Memorial Walnut Clinic, where she is accepting new patients for family practice and is also taking walk-in patients, she enjoys the entire spectrum of life care from newborns to teens, adults and senior care. She lives with her family in Walnut and wants people in rural communities to have close access to their primary health providers.