Why You Need a Primary Care Physician
WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE A PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN (PCP)?
“Because when you need a doctor, that’s when you want someone who knows you,” says Einstein family practice physician Hermine Stein, MD. “If you meet your PCP when nothing is wrong, when you’re healthy, then we can get to know your baseline. So when something does go wrong, maybe even just a cold – when something changes – your PCP knows you well through a very personal relationship and can see the change. We can tell how sick you are. That’s the best way for your doctor to monitor your health.”
In fact, the ability of your PCP to detect issues early on – whether based on nagging symptoms or through preventative screenings and exams – can be lifesaving. PCPs also help patients manage chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Jennifer McCarthy, MD, another Einstein family practice physician, echoes Dr. Stein’s remarks. “It’s our job as PCPs to establish strong relationships with our patients, to get to know them medically and personally, to keep them healthy and happy, to make them better when they’re sick, and to direct preventative care and specialty care as needed. It’s an invaluable partnership. Patients and their PCPs need to work together as a team to ensure your health and wellness.”
SCREENINGS AND IMMUNIZATIONS
Patients should be working in partnership with their PCP to ensure that preventative exams and screenings are occurring as needed, and immunizations are up-to-date. While the following offers some general guidelines, there are numerous factors such as family history and underlying conditions that impact these recommendations. Talk with your PCP to determine your individual needs.
Dr. Stein stresses the critical importance of sleep. “The average person sleeps only four to six hours,” she reports. “We recommend eight hours. If we don’t get enough sleep, along with it keeping us from functioning well mentally, it contributes to eating improperly and weight gain, stresses the heart and increases blood pressure.”
FEND OFF THE FLU
Dr. Stein’s additional tips include keeping the flu at bay. “If you are sleeping well, eating well and exercising, that’s the best way to keep up resistance and prevent getting sick,” explains Dr. Stein. “Most of us get sick because our resistance is low, not because someone is breathing on us. If our resistance is good, we can fight it. Of course, it also helps to wash your hands frequently, clean shared surfaces such as doorknobs and phones, and when possible, stay away from others who are sick.”
DOES OTC = OK?
Dr. McCarthy reminds us that we need to be aware of the potential effects of natural or over-the-counter (OTC) remedies. “Just because it’s organic or you can get it without a prescription doesn’t mean it’s safe for you,” she says. “Combined with other prescription medications you may be taking and any underlying conditions, there could be an issue. OTC and natural substances count as medicines too, so always talk with your doctor first.”
NO SUCH THING
“There is no such thing as a stupid question or a stupid visit,” says Dr. Stein. “It’s only stupid if you don’t do something about a potential medical issue. Patients need to know that their doctors want to see them. If you don’t feel that your doctor is listening to you, you’re seeing the wrong doctor. Choose another one. You need to be comfortable with the people you’ve selected to be your healthcare providers.”
“We need to acknowledge that mental health is equally as important in primary care medicine and preventative health,” says Dr. Stein. “It’s still taboo to talk about mental illness, but it shouldn’t be. In most cases, ther e is a chemical imbalance that contributes to mental illness. It’s something that can be treated. Depression is not a sign of weakness. If I told you that you have a sugar imbalance because of diabetes, you wouldn’t see that as a weakness. Mental illness can often be balanced with medications. It’s no different than diabetes. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about it.”