Primary care is the foundation of your health so establishing a relationship with a primary care provider, or PCP, is important to a strong foundation. Why does having a primary care doctor matter? Dr. Laila Awny, MD, an internal medicine specialist answers some questions about PCPs and the importance of health screenings.
Q: What is the role of a primary care provider?
A primary care provider is the main healthcare provider in charge of helping you maintain good health. Throughout our lives we will all face an acute health event, like a respiratory tract infection or a urinary tract infection. Therefore it’s advisable to have a primary care provider as a point person for coordinating your care. The primary care provider also provides preventive care and coordination of specialty care.
Q: How does the primary care provider fit into a patient’s care team?
When people start to have several health issues, such as heart disease combined with diabetes and high blood pressure, they will need someone who can provide comprehensive management of the conditions and orchestrate specialty care when necessary. If a person is seeing a lot of specialists and subspecialists, it can be difficult for that patient to keep track of everything and ensure the different providers are communicating with one another. The primary care provider is the one who is in charge of coordinating the patient’s care and funneling all treatment regimens into a tailored plan that is specific to that patient.
Q: What does a patient need to know in selecting a primary care provider?
There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether a doctor is the right doctor for you. Since your primary care provider will be the point person on your care team, it’s critical that you feel comfortable discussing all of your health problems with him or her. It’s equally important that you trust your doctor’s judgment. In addition to comfort level and trustworthiness, your primary care provider should be someone who is available whenever you need him or her.
Q: How important are regular health screenings?
Your primary care provider is usually the doctor who conducts regular screenings of your health. Some screenings should be done at least annually for all patients; whereas some are done for certain age groups or health statuses. Screenings are extremely important in preventive care and early detection. For instance, the colon cancer screening has been leading to increased early detection and, thus, higher survival rates. Diabetes screenings, too, have been helping us detect prediabetes, so that we can offer patients health interventions before they develop diabetes. Other important screenings include those for cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, lung cancer, breast cancer and skin cancer. Immunizations are also important to preventative health and are provided by primary care doctors on a schedule that best matches your age and health status.
Laila Awny, MD, internal medicine specialist at McDowell Internal Medicine, answers some questions about primary care providers and health screenings.