Why You Should Have a Primary Care Provider

Oct. 7, 2021

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When was the last time you went to a doctor for a checkup? Recent studies suggest for many Americans, it may have been a long time. As many as 25 percent of Americans do not have a primary care provider (PCP). 

We asked Dr. Nate Henderson, an assistant vice president for medical affairs with BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, why South Carolinians should find a PCP this year. 

What exactly is primary care? 

Primary care is typically your first point of contact to health care. Primary care can generally be divided into two areas: evaluation and treatment of active illness (whether these are chronic or urgent/episodic conditions), and appropriate preventive care to avoid future health problems. This care is generally given by a provider trained in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics or OB-GYN. Physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other clinicians may provide primary care services to meet needs of the individual.

Why is it important for people to have a PCP? 

A PCP and his or her team serves as a “home base” for your medical care. This provider ideally knows you and your health history, such as allergies, family health history, health conditions and past medical procedures, so focus can be applied to the important issues of the visit. Primary care also serves as a place to seek medical help other than an emergency room for non-emergent problems. 

Who needs a PCP? 

Everyone from children to older adults needs a PCP to have an access point to medical care for management of any type of health concern. It is important to remember regular checkups may focus on different health factors and conditions throughout the stages in your life. 

Do young, healthy people need a PCP? Why? 

Yes, even young, healthy people need a PCP for access to care for urgent or unplanned health care needs as well as appropriate preventive maintenance checks at the recommended frequency. 

What can someone expect from a routine checkup? 

In a routine situation, you can expect to review height/weight (body mass index), blood pressure and vaccinations, such as influenza, COVID-19, tetanus, HPV and others. You can also expect to potentially have some basic lab work done, depending on your age and other factors. Basic lab work may include checking blood glucose and cholesterol.

How often should someone see a PCP? 

Frequency of visits depends on many factors, including age, medical history and types of medicine you may take. In general, adults under the age of 50 with no known health problems may consider a health maintenance visit every three years or so. Those over 50 should go annually. Even if you do not have any complaints or problems, this will provide an opportunity to discuss preventive care. 

What would you say to someone who doesn't trust doctors about going to visit a PCP? 

PCPs are here to help you, not only for screening, diagnosing and treating conditions but also to assist you in navigating your health care experience if needed. They serve as a medical professional who know you. It is also important to remember technology has really come a long way. Now it is common to communicate electronically via telemedicine video, patient portals, emails and text messaging to reduce barriers to quality care.

For help finding a PCP, use our Find Care tool.

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