I grew up in a rural town and had the same doctor for most of my young life. However, when I moved I found myself without a Primary Care Physician (PCP). I had no idea where to start to look for one or if I needed one at all. I eventually found a PCP for myself and I'm so glad that I did. The pandemic has me reflecting on just how important it is to have a PCP. I reached out to Kathryn Beaulieu, MD, and Caitlyn Kenny, MD, of The Christ Hospital Physicians – Primary Care to learn more about the important care a PCP offers and how best to find one.
The Importance of Having a PCP
Many people choose to rely on urgent care, little clinics, or the emergency department instead of finding a PCP. Dr. Beaulieu and Dr. Kenny shared why a PCP can be a better option. "Your PCP will follow up with you to make sure you have recovered, which often isn't done after an urgent care visit. If you have a more complicated illness, it is important you see your provider more often so he/she knows how you are doing and can tailor treatment appropriately." I relate to this and love the care I receive at my PCP. When I get a sinus infection, inevitably a few times a year, my PCP knows me when I call and they know what works for me. That is a big deal! I am not just running to an urgent care to get medicine, I am getting care. They have everything in my file and they follow up to make sure what I am doing is working.
Some believe urgent care can be more convenient, but I learned your PCP often has same-day appointments available if you call first thing in the morning. Many offices also allow patients to do telephone visits, video visits, E-visits and communicate through messages sent via platforms like MyChart.
It's no secret that we should all see our PCP for an annual checkup. According to Dr. Beaulieu and Dr. Kenny, there are so many reasons why you should make it a point to make that annual visit. They told me, "It is important to see your PCP at least once a year, even when you are well because many chronic diseases are silent until they are advanced and have already done damage to your body. Your PCP can screen you for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and others, and recommend treatment before they affect your health. Partnering with you in improving your health is our job and why we love doing what we do!"
I learned that the goal of an annual appointment is to discuss ways to get you to be the healthiest version of yourself in the setting of your unique medical, social, and family histories. In addition to the usual height and weight measurements, blood pressure and other vital sign checks, and a thorough physical exam, your PCP will also:
Discuss healthy eating, exercise, sleep, encourage quitting smoking, and assess for unhealthy alcohol use, among other things.
Assess your risk factors for preventable diseases and recommend immunizations, colonoscopy, mammogram, pap smear, PSA testing, etc.
Discuss feelings of depression, anxiety, or stress and suggestions on how to improve your mental health.
While your PCP can do a lot of things, some problems are best suited for a specialist. Your PCP will help you identify if seeing a specialist is an important next step in managing your care.
How to Find a PCP
When I was searching for my PCP, I knew I needed to have someone that I felt comfortable with, someone that I could talk to. I am one of those people who always think the worst when I have a health issue, so I knew I wanted a PCP that would be calming and appropriately access my concerns to either assure me there was nothing to worry about or recommend necessary additional tests. Dr. Beaulieu and Dr. Kenny agree that it's important to have a PCP you can trust. They recommend picking someone with who you will feel comfortable sharing information that is often intimate and private and who you want to partner with to accomplish your health goals.
As Dr. Beaulieu and Dr. Kenny explained, having a PCP is about investing in your health. "A PCP is someone who knows your medical history. He or she can identify ways to keep you healthy with routine screening, labs, immunizations, and counseling. They can diagnose and treat chronic diseases, which often present when you feel fine and do not have symptoms. They can refer you to specialists to help manage more complex conditions. They can see you when you are sick. Partnering with a PCP you trust is a great way to take care of yourself and your family."
Learn more about Drs. Beaulieu and Kenny, their Cold Spring, Ky, practice, or schedule an appointment online with one of them today!