Why Primary Care Matters
Establish a strong relationship with your primary care physician for life-long benefits.
If you are like many people, you probably only see a doctor when you are sick or injured. But research shows visiting a primary care physician (PCP) on a regular basis can improve your overall quality of life, making sure you receive routine health screenings and preventive care.
A Wealth of Benefits
“In addition to overseeing preventive care, one of the most important services PCPs provide is a triage of their care,” said Dr. Sybil Taquet, a primary care physician with CHI St. Joseph Health Primary Care Austin’s Colony.
“One of the most important services PCPs provide is evaluating all medical conditions and starting labs and imaging, if needed, to narrow down the disease before sending you to a specialist,” she said. “We do a ‘triage,’ so you won’t lose time and money seeing a specialist you don’t need. This also helps specialists get the test results that are useful to them.”
As a result, you are likely to spend less time in the emergency room or hospital, saving you time and money in the long run. You may also miss less work due to illness.
A Range of Specialties
PCPs may specialize in a variety of areas to meet the needs of different populations:
Family medicine PCPs offer general care for all ages
General obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) PCPs provide care for women throughout life
General pediatrics PCPs specialize in caring for children
Geriatrics PCPs focus on the health of adults ages 65 and older
Internal medicine PCPs address acute illnesses and chronic diseases
“The primary care physician’s role of ‘traditional gatekeeper’ is vital,” said Dr. Hector Chapa, an attending physician and OB/GYN hospitalist at CHI St. Joseph Health Regional Hospital. “If you think of medical care as a marathon, you need primary care, and you may need other specialties, but you have to start somewhere.
“Often OB/GYNs serve in the role of PCPs for women, providing preventive care and beginning care for conditions like diabetes and hypertension,” said Dr. Chapa, who also serves as Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Clerkship Director for OB/GYN at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
“The important thing,” said Dr. Chapa, “is that patients seek some type of preventive care, whether through a primary care provider or a specialist like an OB/GYN. Providers work together seamlessly and consult one another to provide the best possible care to patients.”
Selecting a Provider
Take time to find a PCP who makes you feel comfortable, and set a goal to see him or her at least annually for important screenings and vaccinations, as well as to have conversations about your health and wellness.
When it comes to finding a PCP, Dr. Taquet says to rely on your network—friends, coworkers, and acquaintances from school or church. “When you meet the doctor, make sure you feel comfortable,” she said. “It’s important that your provider is listening to you and not making you feel rushed.”
“Since your relationship with your PCP is a long-term relationship, it’s important to have rapport,” said Dr. Chapa. “In the time you have with your provider, you should feel like you’re the only patient they have on their schedule. It’s important to look at whether the provider is addressing the needs you have. If not, find someone who is.”
“Another thing to consider,” said Dr. Taquet, “is your convenience. Many clinics, including Austin’s Colony, offer extended hours, giving patients the ability to see their providers outside normal working hours. This is beneficial for patients who have difficulty leaving their work during the day.
“It’s important also,” said Dr. Chapa, “that patients serve as their own advocate for their health. It’s getting harder these days to find an excuse not to see a doctor, with so many newer programs—like telemedicine—that are designed to address gaps in rural care.”
“Regardless of the provider you choose, you will get the most out of your experience by thinking of this relationship as a partnership,” said Taquet. “We will guide your care and help cure you, but it’s important that the patient is responsible and aware of the role they play in managing their health.”