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

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

Lee esto en EspañolDay-to-day life can get hectic. Going for an annual health checkup or getting a flu shot each year can be another thing you don’t need on your to-do list.

But getting in a bind when someone gets sick or hurt can be an even bigger hassle. Here's something you could do. Get yourself a primary care physician (PCP) ahead of time, so you don’t have to wonder what to do when a health problem happens.

You can choose a family doctor or an internist to be your family PCP.

  • Your PCP knows you better. No one knows you like your PCP.  Your PCP knows what medicines you take and that you can forget and not always take your medicine like you should.  Your PCP knows that you’ve never had a problem with high blood pressure, so if your numbers are high something is stressing you 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. Besides, who doesn’t want to feel at ease in a doctor’s office?
  • Hello again. The PCP’s office knows who you are. You can call the office when you have a medical issue. The pediatrician will try to fit you in that day or have the doctor or the physician assistant call you back. If they are unable to see you, they’ll tell you what your 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, you think something is broken). Having that “go-to” person means you don’t have to wonder what to do, and you don’t have to make an expensive trip to the emergency room when you don’t need to. Taking care of small health problems before they become big ones is a huge reason to have a doctor on speed dial.
  • One of the main things a PCP does is help you stay well. The doctor’s office calls you and sends you an email when it’s time for you annual well-woman exam or mammogram. The pediatrician sends fun postcards reminding you about sports physicals, immunizations and back-to-school check-ups. The PCP keeps you in top form for allergy season, cold and flu season, and the holiday season when things always seem to go wrong.
  • They 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: A person was having pretty strong and constant pain down the right side of their leg, and it went on for quite some time. They just assumed they had bone cancer, permanent nerve damage, dengue fever or some life-changing crippling disease. They put off taking care of it partly because they had no idea who to see to find out. Orthopedist, neurologist, surgeon, tropical disease specialist? But, they just happened to mention it to their PCP, and the PCP sent them for some scans to see what was wrong. Diagnosis: sciatic nerve flair up. A little pain reliever and a few visits to a physical therapist did the trick. No orthopedic surgeon required. If it had been, their PCP would have figured it out for them and sent them to the right place.

Let us help you with the next steps to search for a good PCP.

Already have one?

Why do you love your PCP?

Originally published 10/6/2014; Revised 2019, 2020, 2022

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