The importance of primary care
Millennials – people born between 1981 and 1996 – make up the largest adult generation in the United States, but there’s mounting evidence that they want their healthcare delivered in different ways than before. “The Health of Millennials,” a 2019 study by Blue Cross Blue Shield, found that only 68% of millennials have a primary care provider, compared to 91% of adults in Generation X.
What is a primary care provider?
A primary care provider (also known as a PCP) is a medical professional who helps you to manage your health. PCPs are trained to provide comprehensive care when you’re sick or injured and to help prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses. They’re typically the first healthcare provider you turn to for:
- Annual checkups
- Routine health screenings
- Treating common illnesses
- Managing long-term or chronic conditions
- Referrals to a medical specialist
Deborah Anderson, MD
Dr. Deborah Anderson, a primary care provider with Total Family Care, said that while some people may visit only when they’re sick, seeing a primary care provider for routine, preventative care is vital for your health.
“Think of it like a car. You can take your car to the mechanic when it’s broken down or you can make sure to have the routine maintenance done to keep it running in top shape. I’m like your mechanic. While I’m happy to see you when you’re sick, I prefer to keep up with the maintenance,” she said.
Many conditions need monitoring and management, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Primary care providers have the inside track and can help you manage them.
“We’re lucky in the U.S. that we’ve got the capacity to have primary care providers. Turn to us for help. We can be your advocate and help you navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.”
Choosing the right provider
Many types of healthcare providers offer primary care, though different specialists are trained to see certain types of patients.
- Family medicine providers see patients of all ages, from birth to old age
- Pediatricians care for patients from birth to age 21
- Internal medicine providers care for patients age 16 or 17 and older
- OB-GYN providers care for female patients from puberty through menopause and beyond
Chelsea Willis, DO
Dr. Chelsea Willis, a primary care provider at Family Medicine of Tonganoxie, said it’s important to consider a variety of factors in addition to a provider’s specialty.
“When you’re looking for a primary care provider, a lot of people have a gender preference and may prefer a female instead of a male. Others may prefer to visit an osteopath (DO) if they have musculoskeletal issues and need someone who performs manipulation in addition to their care,” she said.
Personality preference is also a factor to take into consideration. Do you want a straightforward provider or someone who is more conversational?
“Go to the clinic or the hospital website for more information about a provider you’re considering. Read their biography and learn about their education,” Dr. Willis said. “If you’re looking for someone with LMH Health, you can watch their video to learn more about what we do.”
Dr. Anderson said your friends can be the key to finding a provider you can trust.
“You can find a provider the same way you find a new hairdresser – ask your friends. If they get great care and love their doctor, listen to who is going where. You might not get the hairdresser you thought you wanted, but you can get an even better one,” she said.
What can I expect at my first visit?
You may be apprehensive the first time you meet with a new primary care provider, but there’s no need to be. Dr. Anderson said the visit gives both you and the provider the opportunity to get to know each other.
“Your visit will be thorough and I’ll be detailed,” she said. “The more information you provide me, the better. I want to know your history, your medication list and the last time you had anything done. You won’t offend me with too much information. I always want more.”
Dr. Willis shared that bringing a list of the things you’d like to address is important, but keep in mind that your appointment is time-limited. Pick your top three priorities so that you’ve got an agenda and make sure to take notes.
“People only remember about 20% of what we say, so keeping notes is super helpful. It’s also sometimes helpful to bring a family member so they can hear what’s being shared,” she said.
Healthcare delivered differently
As the landscape of healthcare continues to change, the ways in which it’s delivered also evolves. Blue Cross Blue Shield found that millennials are almost twice as likely as baby boomers to use urgent care and retail clinics.
“People that choose not to have a primary care provider don’t know what they’re missing. They go to urgent care or even the emergency department when something is desperately broken. For a lot of people, that’s their primary care,” Dr. Anderson said.
On-demand telehealth visits are also an increasingly popular solution not only for millennials but also for those with busy schedules and commitments that don’t allow them to escape for an hour.
“All of the family medicine providers at LMH Health provide telehealth visits. It’s a simple solution and provides the convenience of seeing your doctor from the comfort of your home or office,” said Dr. Willis.
Millennials are also more likely to self-refer to a specialist than other generations.
“People tend to have a lot of confidence triaging themselves,” Dr. Willis said. “They have a problem and see a specialist, but they may not see the right specialist for their issue. You’re risking wasting time, money and not getting the care you need.”
Should I visit the Emergency Department?
If you’re having breathing problems, chest pain, broken bones sticking out of your body or stroke symptoms, head straight to the Emergency Department. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200.
“With any kind of acute pain, we should all have that instinct. For any kind of acute pain, if it’s an 8 out of 10 you’re thinking about going to the ED. If it’s a 9, you’re on the way and if it’s a 10 you’re already there,” Dr. Anderson remarked.
But if you’re not sure what to do, Dr. Willis shared that you can contact your primary care provider for advice – even if it’s after hours. You’re not wrong to call.
“We have an on-call physician available 24/7. If you aren’t sure if you should go to urgent care or the ED, it doesn’t hurt to call ahead to see if you’re doing the right thing,” she said.
Dr. Anderson agreed and said that it’s important to make yourself a priority. No one will judge you for that.
“When you have questions, just ask. It’s hard wired within us to provide comprehensive, personalized care for you. We always try to do the right thing for you no matter what,” she said.