Although it’s undeniably a quick and convenient source of information, the internet can be problematic when it comes to getting the right information about one’s health. As the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services warns: “There are thousands of medical websites. Some provide reliable health information. Some do not. Some of the medical news is current. Some of it is not.”
While there are dependable health sources on the web – federal websites like MedlinePlus are particularly useful – when it comes to diagnoses and treatments, nothing beats a visit to your primary care physician (PCP) or family doctor. If you already have one, you’re aware of the benefits: a trusted PCP is your first contact for non-emergency concerns; someone who is familiar with your personal history (and possibly that of your family members); has a solid network of specialists to refer you to if necessary; and, quite possibly, someone who reminds you to maintain regular checkups.
A family doctor is just that: someone who often has spent years with you, building a relationship involving preventive care, healthy lifestyle suggestions, and the diagnosis and treatment of common medical conditions. In addition, they can be a constant, positive presence in your life.
For those without a PCP, you may be doing yourself a disservice. Finding the right one can be relatively simple, though it will take some work. Insurance is always a consideration: is the physician in your network? Do you want someone whose office is close to your home, or to your workplace?
Referrals from friends or other family members can be helpful, as can online reviews (the internet can be beneficial!). After booking your initial visit, you can determine if the physician seems attuned to your specific needs and get a “feel” for whether they’re right for you.
Treating someone from infancy through their golden years can be personally rewarding for both the patient and the physician, which is largely why I returned to family medicine after years working at urgent care centers. Personal relationships are important, especially when it comes to your health. I get to know you and your family’s pathology, and there is no condition that I cannot at least somewhat approach. In addition, a PCP acts kind of like a quarterback, handing a case off to a trusted endocrinologist or cardiologist, for example, when needed.
And again, that personal touch can be of great value. About 70% of the patients I see are for chronic conditions; someone with diabetes, hypertension, or looking for their annual physical will do better with a PCP who is obviously more aware of the patient’s history and needs.
With so many healthcare choices available for today’s patient. I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to explore further what a PCP can do for you.