Primary Care, Better Care

It’s a common question: “Do I need a primary care physician?”

It’s an easy answer: Yes. Here’s why:

  • Someone knows your overall health.
  • You have a better chance of seeing a doctor quickly.
  • You’re more likely to get an annual checkup and preventive care (free under most health plans).
  • You have access to specialist referrals.

Research also shows that people with access to primary care physicians have lower death rates for cancer, heart disease and stroke, and are less likely to be hospitalized.

So, now what?

  • Find the right kind of doctor. “Primary care physicians” can refer to different kinds of physicians: “family practice” and “general practice” physicians usually treat people of any age; “internal medicine” doctors usually treat adults; OB/GYN physicians focus on women’s health; pediatricians treat kids; and geriatricians treat older adults.
  • Get referrals. Ask friends to refer you to primary care doctors.
  • Check the network. Your health insurance provider should have a “Find a Physician” or similar button on its website. Choose an in-network provider or be prepared to pay more.
  • Be choosey. If you don’t have “good chemistry” with your doctor, switch to a new one.
  • Be prepared. Before you see your doctor, write down everything you want to discuss with him or her, so you don’t forget. Also, remember to bring prescription bottles for all medications you currently take.

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