Good health and wellness are not a destination but a journey. Navigating this journey, however, can be very difficult for someone without expert knowledge.
Primary care providers, sometimes called PCPs, are medical professionals who will guide you to good health and wellness. Many people think of using a doctor only when they are sick. While it is important to see a doctor when you are sick, you also need to see a health care provider if you have an acute illness. Examples of acute illness could be a common cold, bronchitis, or the flu, which generally require short-term medical care.
It is vital to have a provider for overall health and wellness too. I’m hopeful this column will help explain what a primary care provider is, why it is important to see one regularly and what to look for when searching for a provider that fits your needs.
A primary care provider is a health care professional who can assist you in managing your day-to-day health. This provider might be a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Primary care providers specialize in diagnosing, treating and preventing a broad range of health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, thyroid issues and obesity, to name a few.
A primary care physician (PCP) can help manage these health conditions by giving patients consistency, efficiency, familiarity, prevention and condition management, acute, common illnesses and a team approach to health care.
It’s essential to be familiar with your primary care provider to have patient-specific health care. Developing a patient-provider relationship to fit your specific needs helps optimize overall health and wellness.
The PCP will also be responsible for managing current health conditions and provide screenings and immunizations for any major health-related conditions. It might be challenging to juggle all of this without a primary care provider. It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to your health care.
PCP’s are there for you during a common acute illness unless it is an emergency or life-or-death situation – which would require notifying emergency services and going to the nearest emergency department. Let the primary care provider manage your health care rather than emergency services. It will be more cost-efficient and also might result in better overall care.
Remember, the PCP will have a more in-depth knowledge of your lifestyle and health.
It’s easy to forget, but primary care providers have a team of health care professionals helping them every day. This team includes front-office staff, nurses, medical assistants and phlebotomists. Each PCP works together with the team, known as team-approach health care, to meet each patients’ needs in a timely and friendly manner. Team-approach health care is both patient-specific and efficient to help patients accomplish health and wellness goals. It allows for expanded access to care and the delivery of additional services to provide high-quality health care.
Making your overall health a priority is where a patient’s wellness journey begins. Without a primary care provider, navigating this journey might become difficult or simply undoable. So, get out there and find the right provider for you and start being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to your health care needs.
Michelle Johnson, FNP, is accepting new patients at MUSC Health-Primary Care and is ready to help navigate your health care wellness journey with you. For more information, call 843-679-4221 or visit MUSChealth.org/Florence.