Choosing Care: How a Primary Care Provider Improves Health and Wellness

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Choosing Care: How a Primary Care Provider Improves Health and Wellness

Do I need a primary care provider (PCP)? The short answer is yes! But, perhaps you’d like a bit more of an explanation. Primary care provider Patricia Newland, M.D., UnityPoint Health explains why having a provider in your corner can help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

What can my Primary Care Provider Treat?

A PCP, also known as a family medicine doctor, an internal medicine doctor, a general practice provider or a pediatrician can coordinate your care and track your overall health and wellness. PCPs frequently treat patients with infectious illnesses such as colds, flu, pneumonia and strep throat.

“Your PCP is a great resource for you when you come down with an illness,” Dr. Newland says. “He or she can make recommendations on necessary testing and treatment options. A PCP can provide guidance on whether or not prescription medications such as antibiotics are needed and can help give you guidance on over-the-counter medications.”

These providers also treat people with injuries like back pain, sprains and lacerations. Rashes, acne and moles are also in the PCP wheelhouse. PCPs can also help manage chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, thyroid problems and high cholesterol. They can often treat mild to moderate mental health conditions, too, including anxiety and depression. Finally, your PCP is where you’ll go if you need a routine health exam or physical. During these routine visits, your PCP will help you get the necessary screening and diagnostic tests to identify problems earlier for more effective treatment.

How often should I see my Primary Care Provider?

How often you should visit your PCP usually depends on your age and other chronic medical conditions. It is important for infants and children to see their PCP on a routine schedule to monitor for important developmental milestones and to keep up with immunizations. Pediatricians can serve as a PCP for your child.

Adults also need routine screenings and immunizations. Patients who have chronic medical conditions may need to see their PCP more often for laboratory tests and to refill medications. If you don’t know how often to schedule appointments, just ask your PCP. He or she will give you a recommendation that suits your health care needs.

While your PCP will help you determine when to make routine visits and physicals, you can also make last minute or unexpected trips to your provider.

“It should be easy to get in to see your PCP. The majority save same day spots to accommodate any last minute needs and many offer extended hours to help fit your schedule,” Dr. Newland says.

Can having a Primary Care Provider save me Money?

“Yes, having a PCP helps save money. PCPs can diagnose and treat a majority of illnesses at a lower cost than seeing a specialist. He or she can provide guidance on what are necessary and unnecessary tests and treatments. Most importantly, if you have a more serious condition requiring a specialist, a PCP can help get you to the right doctor for your problem, which will prevent you from spending extra money while trying to find the correct specialist,” Dr. Newland says.

How Should I choose a Primary Care Provider?

Here are six things to consider while making your choice.

  1. Find a provider who is in your health insurance network to avoid unexpected costs.
  2. Look for a location that is convenient for you, perhaps near your home or office.
  3. Check to make sure the PCP is accepting new patients.
  4. Call to find out how difficult it is to get an appointment with the provider you are considering.
  5. Ask for referrals from friends or co-workers.
  6. Look at biographies online to see if the PCP has any specialties or focuses that fit your health care needs.

A good place to begin searching for a PCP is on the UnityPoint Health website. You can also refer to your health insurance company’s website to see which providers are in your coverage network.