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Five Reasons to Have a Primary Care Doctor

September 8, 2023

a female patient speaking with her physician in a doctors offic

When you’re feeling good, it can be hard to see the value of visiting your primary care doctor. But that’s exactly when — and why — you should. Studies show that annual wellness visits are the key to health and longevity, and people who regularly see their primary care doctor are generally healthier than those who don’t.

“As a family physician for more than 25 years, I take care of the entire family, from newborns to the elderly, at times across four generations. I provide comprehensive care throughout their entire lives,” says Melissa Selke, MD, a primary care physician at Atlantic Health System. “This all-encompassing approach to health care is what makes family medicine so unique. We help prevent medical problems through yearly physicals, vaccinations, blood work and cancer screenings. We also manage chronic conditions, sick visits, and can refer you to specialists, if needed.”

Here’s how a primary care physician can be your partner in achieving a healthier life:

1. Your Medical History All in One Place

Primary care is your medical home for physical and mental well-being, and the first place you turn when you’re sick. Your doctor will get to know your lifestyle and health goals. They will maintain your health record with family history, preventive screenings, labs and imaging, vaccinations, and clinical notes from your visits. This record travels with you in MyChart as a useful tool when searching for trends or underlying health issues.

2. Knowing Your Numbers

Interpreting lab tests and screenings isn’t always easy. Your primary care physician helps you understand important markers that can detect health problems and manage chronic conditions effectively. Some of the numbers you and your doctor should be tracking include blood sugar (glucose), blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight or body mass index (BMI). 

3. Promoting Good Health

Annual wellness visits are a critical part of a preventive health care. Your doctor will guide you on lifestyle changes, nutrition, exercise and preventive measures to maintain good health. Each year, your primary care doctor talks with you about recommended bloodwork, cancer screenings and vaccines that help avoid potential health problems — making sure you understand your results and helping you set goals that can delay — and even prevent — disease.

4. Managing Chronic Illnesses

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six in 10 Americans are living with at least one chronic health condition, like heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, and/or cancer. If you are among them, you know the importance of having a primary care doctor. They educate you about your issues, monitor disease progression, advise on medications, manage your care team, and offer strategies to minimize the effects of your illness. 

5. Access to Specialists

Having a relationship with your primary care doctor means when it comes time to see a specialist, your doctor can provide the appropriate referrals. They make sure the specialist has access to your complete medical record, so your visit is productive. This way, your medical needs are well managed so you can make informed decisions about your health.

"Your family physician is your 'medical home,' where your doctor not only takes care of you but also coordinates care with your other doctors and keeps your medical records in one place," says Dr. Selke. "We work to achieve optimal health together as a team, listening to your concerns, teaching you about your health, and encouraging you to participate in decisions regarding your care. We are a team, and you are a vital part of that team!"

Be Proactive About Your Health

Stay up to date with your annual wellness exams and screenings to prevent and detect more serious issues.