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    Who is your Primary Care Provider?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | July 19th, 2020

    Who is your Primary Care Provider?

    Last year I asked the question, do you have a primary care provider? I was hoping that everyone would answer yes, however that has not been the case.  COVID 19 has shown us that there are still many people that do not have a primary care provider. If you do not have one, I would urge you and your loved ones (relative and friends, men and women) to establish care with a primary care physician.

    A primary care provider is a provider who knows you very well.  They know your medical history and provide comprehensive medical care. They are someone you should have a good rapport.

    Having a primary care provider:

    1. Saves lives – You are less likely to die prematurely because they are able to manage your chronic diseases, they are able to detect diseases earlier because of screening and they are able to send you to the right specialist when needed.
    2. Saves money– You are less likely to be hospitalized or to use the emergency room or go to urgent care because you have access to a provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Primary care providers have an answering service when their offices are closed so that you can always check in with someone if needed.
    3. Saves time – You have someone who knows you as an individual. With your initial visit, they will get to know you. For subsequent visits, the primary care provider already knows your history. You do not have to repeat yourself.

    Some may classify their OB/GYNs as primary care providers. If your OB/GYN is only checking your breasts and doing a pelvic exam, that is not enough. If you have a primary care provider and that provider is not checking your breasts or doing a pelvic exam, that is not enough. My recommendation is that you have a primary care provider, either a Family Practice physician or an Internal Medicine physician along with your OB/GYN. Please note that within the office, you may be assigned to a Nurse Practitioner. Every Nurse Practitioner works under the direction of a physician. You have the right to ask to see a physician if you desire.

    How do you find a primary care provider? Ask your OB/GYN, ask your relatives, ask your friends, or ask your co-workers. Once you find one, go to the website and read about the provider. Make sure that they offer the services that you need. Some providers have a special interest and have obtained additional certificates. For example, I am an OB/GYN and do general OB/GYN, but I am also a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner.

    You may find that there may be a wait to establish care with a primary care provider. Do not let that dissuade you. Make the appointment. You can ask to be on the waiting list. You may even call weekly to see if someone has cancelled their appointment. Remember that once you schedule the appointment, you are closer to being seen.

    Additional information:

    • Please note if you have not seen a primary care provider in over 3 years, then you do not have a primary care physician. You will be considered a new patient. Try and see your primary care provider at least every 2 years, although every year would be preferable.
    • If you are not happy with the relationship you have with your provider, you have to figure out what you want. The answer is not to stop going to your provider.  Continue seeing your provider until you find a new one. Remember that with electronic medical charting, doctors can read notes if they are within the same system.
    • Even though you may be healthy and have never had a health problem, you should still have a primary care provider. It is like insurance. There are people walking around that think they are healthy. By the time they get sick, it is too late. It is better to prevent than to treat.

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