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What Services Does a Primary Care Physician Provide?

Doctor Q&A

Primary care providers (PCPs) have an extensive knowledge of the health care system and have much to provide beyond regular wellness checks. Understanding all the reasons you can see your PCP will help you get the most out of your ongoing relationship.

Give referrals

If you’re experiencing a health issue that you feel may need specialized care, your PCP can help narrow the possibilities and refer you to one or more specialists who can help you. Going to your PCP has advantages over self-referring—you’re more likely to get a better referral from your PCP and avoid scheduling (and paying for) any unnecessary appointments.

Order diagnostic tests

Your PCP’s ability to give you insights into the state of your health isn’t limited to what can be detected with a stethoscope. He or she can order diagnostic tests, like a blood test or imaging test, to more accurately diagnose your condition or narrow down which type of specialist you need.

Assess mental conditions

PCPs aren’t just focused on your physical health—they are trained to assess your mental health as well—because your mind and body are closely connected. When it comes to depression, your PCP may try to rule out other health problems that mimic the symptoms of depression, such as vitamin deficiency, anemia, and kidney or liver problems. If you suspect you need mental health treatment, your first visit should be to your PCP.

Preventive care

Your PCP’s number one focus is helping you maintain good overall health, and a big part of this is preventive care. Your PCP can help you understand your individual risk factors and advise you on when to get certain screenings. He or she may also suggest lifestyle changes to lower your risk of related health issues.

Write and manage prescriptions

You can get a prescription from your PCP, but perhaps more importantly, you can discuss your medication regimen with your PCP and see if any updates need to be made. As the keeper of your health records, part of your PCP’s role is understanding which medications you’ve been prescribed by other doctors and how those medications interact. They can also share with you the latest treatment options and help you explore alternatives if something isn’t working for you.

Diagnose medical conditions

It’s not always necessary to see a specialist about your symptoms—often, your PCP will be able to diagnose a medical issue and suggest treatment options. A visit with your PCP is a more cost-effective option than a visit with a specialist, which is why checking in with your PCP is always a good place to start whenever you’re experiencing new or worsening symptoms.

Wellness checks

During routine wellness checks, your PCP does a physical examination according to your health needs. This may include listening to your heart and lungs, checking blood pressure, looking for suspicious moles, checking lymph nodes for abnormalities, etc. The more familiar your PCP is with your health history and lifestyle, the better they are able to tailor wellness checks to suit your individual needs.

Immunizations

While it’s true you can often get seasonal immunizations, like the flu shot, from walk-in clinics, you can also get them from your PCP. Additionally, your PCP is equipped to give you and your family other suggested immunizations to keep you up to date.

Education

A PCP is a fantastic resource for education on safe health behaviors and self-care. Whether you’re looking to reach a health goal or maintain your current level of health, your PCP can educate you about lifestyle changes and opportunities, like diet and exercise, to help you live the life you want.

Managing chronic conditions

Your PCP is a valuable resource for helping you manage ongoing medical conditions. From coordinating care to keeping tabs on new treatment options, your PCP acts as a gatekeeper to help you navigate the health care system.

Having a PCP you trust helps you get the most out of your relationship. MyHealthKC makes it easier than ever to find the right primary care provider for you. If you’re in need of a PCP or looking to make a change, just answer a few questions about yourself, and MyHealthKC will deliver a list of local providers who best match your personality and health care needs.