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Why everyone should have a Primary Care Physician

The evidence shows that good access to primary care can help us live longer, feel better, and avoid disability and long absences from work. In areas of the country where there are more primary care providers per person, death rates for cancer, heart disease, and stroke are lower and people are less likely to be hospitalized. Another big plus: health care costs are lower when people have a primary care provider overseeing their care and coordinating all the tests, procedures, and follow-up care.

When people don’t have access to a regular primary care provider, they end up in emergency rooms more often, and they’re admitted to hospitals more frequently. Without regular screening, a controllable condition like high cholesterol—which often can be kept in check with common drugs—can eventually lead to a life-threatening heart attack.

Get to know your physician

Research shows that primary care is still the strongest foundation of good health care — and your relationship with your family doctor is a crucial element of that foundation.

Building a solid rapport with your primary care provider is important for many reasons. First of all, your family doctor needs to know what you’re like when you’re not sick in order to better observe any changes when you are. And if you do get seriously ill, a primary care provider who knows you will be better able to provide the emotional and psychological support you need, as well as help you navigate the health care system. As gatekeepers to specialty care, primary care providers need to understand what your needs, preferences, and values are in order to connect you with specialists, or other providers who can take your health care to the next level.

If you know and trust your family doctor, it’s also much easier to address the more embarrassing medical questions that come up. Doctors understand that there are topics some patients find difficult to discuss, but having those potentially awkward conversations with your primary physician should feel like confiding in a friend rather than exposing yourself to a stranger.