You may not think about seeing a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant when you’re feeling healthy. However, there are many reasons to establish care and build a relationship with a primary care provider, or PCP, before you need one.
Five great reasons to ally with a PCP:
- He or she will help coordinate your health care. If you use one office for preventive services and screenings, treatment for chronic conditions and acute illness and injury care, you’ll need fewer appointments. As a bonus, you won’t need to repeat your health history and medication regimen to different providers.
- Your PCP will note patterns in your health, then help you make individualized lifestyle changes to prevent future problems.
- When you have an urgent issue, your PCP will be more likely to fit you in if you’re already his or her patient. When you’re not feeling well – and it’s not an emergency – you don’t want to seek care at the emergency department, where treatment may be more expensive.
- If you need specialty care for a serious issue, your PCP will know which specialists will best meet your needs and mesh with your personality. In fact, your health insurance provider is likely to require a specialist referral from your PCP.
- A good PCP will not only track your health issues over time and fine-tune your treatment accordingly, but actively help you reach your health goals. A PCP can help women with reproductive health. He or she is your coach, partner and ally in health throughout each stage of your life.
Now that you know why it’s important to partner with a PCP, here are a few tips on how to choose the one who’s right for you:
- Decide what kind of expertise you need. Would you prefer a family practice physician who offers generalized care to patients of all ages; a pediatrician to safeguard the growth and development of your children during their well visits; an internal medicine physician who focuses on preventing, diagnosing and managing illness in adults; or an osteopathic physician (known as a D.O. rather than an M.D.) who has a special focus on the musculoskeletal system? You might also choose to see a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, both of whom can provide many of the same services as a physician.
- Ask people you trust – family members, friends, pharmacists or other health care professionals – for referrals to providers they trust.
- Now that you’ve narrowed it down to a few possible candidates, look at logistics for each: Is the provider’s office located conveniently enough that getting there isn’t too arduous? What are the office hours, and do they conflict with your schedule? Are Saturday appointments available?
- Throughout your first visit to a provider, check out the general office vibe. Is it clean, efficient and friendly? How does each member of the staff – not just the provider – treat you during the visit?
- Talk to the provider about your medical history and current health conditions, as well as the medications and supplements you are taking. The provider should ask you many questions in order to get an accurate picture of your state of health as well as your health goals.
NAH provides primary care services at five locations in Northern Arizona:
- For an appointment with a primary care physician at Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group – Flagstaff, call 928-913-8800.
- For an appointment with a primary care physician at Verde Valley Medical Clinic, call 928-639-5555 in Camp Verde; 928-634-5551 in Cottonwood; 928-204-4944 in Sedona; and 928-204-4999 in the Village of Oak Creek. FBN
Mark Pico, M.D., is an internal medicine and pediatric physician with Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group – Flagstaff.
Northern Arizona Healthcare is creating healthier communities by providing wellness, prevention and medical care through Flagstaff Medical Center, Verde Valley Medical Center, Verde Valley Medical Center – Sedona Campus, Northern Arizona Healthcare – Camp Verde Campus, Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group – Flagstaff, Verde Valley Medical Clinic, the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare, Northern Arizona Healthcare Orthopedic Surgery Center, EntireCare Rehab & Sports Medicine, the Bariatric Surgical Weight Loss Clinic, the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, the Sleep and Pulmonary Center, Guardian Air and Guardian Medical Transport. We also provide comprehensive imaging, laboratory and pharmacy services throughout the region. Many of the services we provide receive major funding through the NAH Foundation, including Fit Kids of Arizona, The Taylor House and Valley View Care.
By Mark Pico, M.D.
For more information on Northern Arizona Healthcare programs and services, visit NAHealth.com. “Like” NAH at Facebook.com/NorthernArizonaHealthcare.