Who needs a Primary Care Physician?

You may hear people talk about seeing their “PCP” but do you know what that acronym really stands for? A long-term relationship with a Primary Care Provider (PCP) is now considered more important than ever before. That is why, by 2020, there is a predicted to be a shortage of over 200,000 Primary Care Physicians in the U.S. and, to make matters worse, medical schools graduate the fewest primary care providers of any specialty since students now prefer to pursue a specialty degree due to better pay and a smaller patient load. But what really makes a Primary Care Physician so essential in this day-and-age?

pri·ma·ry

Adjective

  1. The first stage in any process series or sequence.
  2. First in time; earliest; primitive.

Unfortunately, most people only utilize their Primary Care Provider in a manner consistent with definition #1 and, ironically, this is one of the primary reasons that health insurance premiums in this country are on the rise and the future of Healthcare is uncertain as ever. This is why the Primary Care Physician is now widely-recognized as the only long-term answer to solving the Healthcare Crisis in the United States.  

But what, specifically, does a Primary Care Provider do for me?

Primary(adj) – “The first stage in any process, series or sequence”

Currently, most people consider their PCP as the “home plate” of their treatment and only interact with their PCP when they want to get somewhere else (i.e., see a specialist). For example, Adam W. has a known medical condition; such as Diabetes, Staph Infection, etc., and needs to see a specialist for treatment (Specialist = 3rd base). This specialist (in most instances) will require Adam to first visit a Primary Care Provider. The PCP is responsible for initially evaluating the severity of your condition and determining whether it can be treated easily or if it is advanced enough to warrant specialist treatment and they are also responsible for ordering any Imaging (XR, MRI, etc.) and Diagnostics (Colonoscopy, etc.) that a specialist may need before they can treat your condition.
In other words, most people only visit their Primary Care Physician (home plate) with the intention of getting to 1st base (Diagnostics), 2nd base (Imaging) or 3rd base (a Specialist office) to treat a problem they are already experiencing. In reality, however, the most important time to establish and maintain a relationship with a Primary Care Provider is when you are still healthy, well before experiencing any significant medical problems.

Interested in learning more about Preventive Medicine and the free Preventive benefits the Affordable Care Act provides for everyone free of charge? Skip to our “Preventive Services” Toolkit and fill out your own personalized preventive screening schedule and get scheduled for your first Annual Wellness Visit!

Unfortunately, the reality of the current state of Health Care left Medical Error as the 3rd leading cause of death in 2016 and, what’s worse, is that many of these deaths would be 100% avoidable if everyone established a Primary Care Provider as children or young adults, while they are still healthy and, in particular, before they develop any serious medical problems. Ironically, it was also determined that the most significant cause of these Medical Error deaths is the gaps in information that exist about patients as they go from one care setting to another. This is specifically where a long-term relationship with a Primary Care Physician is most beneficial.
You see, in addition to serving as the first step before seeing a Specialist, a good Primary Care Physician also assumes the responsibility of aggregating and communicating all of your social, family, medical and demographic information and history to any other providers you may see throughout the years. But sadly, most Primary Care offices nowadays only see patients after they are already sick and are so busy day-to-day that doctors have relatively little time to gather individual patients’ in-depth medical or family history (two of the most important pieces of information a physician may need in the E.R.). What’s more, even the few PCP’s that may have this information about you accumulated throughout the years rarely have it consolidated in a form that you, the patient, can review, access, correct and even print out to save on your smartphone or print and take with you to see another Doctor and save yourself precious time answering repetitive questions.

Sign up for our patient portal to access your test results, medical history, and treatment plans all in one place!

Primary(adj) – “First in time; earliest; primitive”

 

This school of thought in Primary Care is known as Preventive Medicine.

 

A Primary Care Provider can ultimately be most successful when given the opportunity to have a long term relationship with you long before you begin experiencing any significant medical problems. The idea here is that since your PCP remains focused on monitoring your overall and general health over the long term and has information about you when you are fully healthy, they are best equipped to recognize a disease developing in a very early stage. Through a comprehensive determination of elevated health risk factors (also known as a Wellness Visit), ongoing screening and monitoring for diseases and exercising of preventive measures as necessary can effectively prevent what otherwise would have developed into a significant medical problem. This benefit is so difficult to quantify because, we cannot measure any benefit if you never get sick in the first place. Ironically, this is precisely why the true power of a Primary Care Physician is not widely understood or utilized.

All Preventive Health recommendations and screening schedules PCP’s follow are based off of recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific clinical preventive services for patients without related signs or symptoms. It evaluates its recommendations based on the evidence of both, the benefits and harms of the service.
Through long-term engagement with a Primary Care Provider it is possible to avoid some of life’s most significant illnesses altogether and implement and follow a lifetime comprehensive treatment plan that takes into consideration your personal elevated risk factors, your social, family and past medical history as well as any screenings, test results and assessments throughout your entire life. Getting patients to actively participate in their own treatment and become health literate about their own medical conditions is one of the biggest hurdles Primary Care Physicians of today face.