Taking Charge of Your Health
September 1, 2020
How Your Primary Care Provider Can Help You Stay Ahead of the Curve
by Jacqueline Eriksen, MD
Since the onset of COVID-19, many of us have probably focused more intently on our health than ever before – paying close attention to how we are feeling, staying alert to any signs that we might not be well, and doing what we can to stay healthy. While a pandemic is certainly a bad thing, being more in tune with and focused on our health is definitely a good thing.
Typically, most of us will visit a doctor when we are ill, experiencing a new physical/mental health problem, or are in pain. However, to truly optimize our health, it is important that we visit our primary care provider for regular check-ups – even when we are well.
Annual physical exams can play a very important role in your health. While a yearly examination may seem unnecessary, especially if you feel great, this regular visit with your primary care provider can be valuable. It can be helpful in preventing future diseases by finding potential problems that can be treated, such as correcting high blood pressure to prevent future strokes and heart attacks. Also providing appropriate immunizations to help prevent future illnesses. It can help in early diagnosis of many conditions – from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions– offering the best chance to keep you healthy and active.
If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease you also want to keep your regular visits with your provider to optimize your health and well-being. These conditions especially when not well-controlled can put you at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
Additionally, regular primary care visits can help you establish a healthy and trusting relationship with your provider making it easier to discuss any health concerns you have in the future.
So, what is a primary care provider?
Primary care providers include family physicians, general practitioners, pediatricians, internal medicine physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. They manage acute illnesses/injuries, manage chronic conditions, and provide preventative care. They partner with their patients to help them achieve optimal physical and mental well-being.
They are usually your first contact when seeking care for an issue and can help guide you through the treatment. In fact, continuity is a key characteristic of primary care. Having a go-to primary care provider offers you a trusted source for routine check-ups, preventive care, and conversations about your health concerns. Your provider knows and understands your health history and potential risk factors, which gives them a more complete picture of your health and how to best manage it.
What happens during an annual exam with a primary care provider?
Your primary care provider uses your regular check-ups to see how your body is performing and monitors your vital signs, including weight, blood pressure, and other important health markers. Depending on your personal health history, your primary care provider might choose to focus on certain areas during your exam, like additional blood pressure and cholesterol screenings if you have a family history of heart disease.
Beyond monitoring and improving your health, an annual check-up allows you and your provider to develop a strong provider-patient relationship, which can go a long way in helping identify even the smallest changes in your health or lifestyle. If you suffer from any chronic conditions, your primary care provider can help you manage them and stay tuned in to any changes in your condition that may need attention.
Yearly exams are also the best way for a primary care provider to ensure that you are getting the preventive health screenings and important vaccinations you need at the right times.
Are annual exams expensive?
Getting an annual exam doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, most insurance plans fully cover one check-up each year. You should contact your insurance provider for details regarding your plan’s coverage.
If you haven’t scheduled your annual check-up, now is a great time to get it on the calendar. Provider offices are taking extra precautions to protect the health and safety of their patients, so it’s never been safer to visit your primary care provider. Your primary care provider may even have a few more openings for annual exam visits than usual.
If you don’t have a primary care provider, Willamette Valley Medical Center can help. Visit the Find a Doctor tab at WillametteValleyMedical.com and get connected with primary care today to help you stay healthy for all your tomorrows.