Jan 12, 2024 The Power of Primary Care

illustration of a group of 5 physicians

8 reasons you should visit a doctor who keeps track of the big picture.

Research suggests the number of Americans who regularly see a primary care physician is dropping. But going to a primary care practice has important health benefits, according to Angel Lazo, MD, an internal medicine specialist in Jersey City and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group.

Angel Lazo MD
Angel Lazo, MD

“A primary care physician typically specializes in a discipline such as family medicine or internal medicine and provides a first point of entry into the healthcare system,” says Dr. Lazo. “It’s important to have go-to health professionals, including nurses, in your corner who can assess and treat a broad variety of conditions.”

David Mikhael, MD, also a primary care physician, in Livingston, and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group, says regularly seeing a primary care doctor can improve your health for reasons like these:

1. You’ll Be Better Off If You Get Ill

After just one meeting, your primary care physician will know at least some of your medical history and possibly baseline results from a number of routine screening tests. “When something goes wrong, your doctor will know what ‘normal’ looks like for you, which will help in addressing both your acute and chronic medical problems more effectively,” Dr. Mikhael says.

2. Medications Will Be Managed More Effectively

David N Mikhael MD
David N. Mikhael, MD

People who use prescription drugs often take more than one, sometimes prescribed by different doctors. Many take vitamins and supplements as well. A primary care physician can monitor and track all your medications, helping to protect you from drug interactions. Your primary care doctor can also keep records of any changes in dosages that might cause unwanted side effects and speak with your other doctors to help fine-tune your regimen.

3. You’ll Receive Disease-Prevention Advice

Seeking out a primary care physician regularly even when you’re feeling fine can help prevent serious illness at a later time. From your health profile, your doctor will be able to recommend tests that can assess your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other serious but common problems. If your medical history and tests indicate that you’re prone to specific illnesses, your primary care physician can suggest healthy lifestyle changes and regular screenings to reduce your risks.

4. Remote Consults May Be Readily Available

Baseline health information your primary care physician collects may allow your doctor to treat certain problems over the phone, knowing you can schedule an in-person follow-up visit if your symptoms don’t improve. Without a primary care doctor, you’re likelier to need a trip to a medical office.

5. You’ll Have an Easier Time Finding Specialists

When you need the care of an expert in a specialty, your primary care physician can help you find the right person—not only someone with the proper qualifications, but a provider who will mesh well with your personality and care preferences. If you prefer aggressive treatments, for instance, you can communicate this to your primary care physician, who can recommend specialists who align with your approach.

6. You’ll Get Help Navigating the ER

Wondering if you should head to the emergency department? If you have a relationship with a primary care physician, you can touch base with the practice office and get guidance from your doctor, potentially sparing you a trip. If you do not need to seek emergency care, your doctor may be ale to call ahead and provide pertinent medical details that could shorten your wait time when appropriate.

7. You’ll Receive Better Care Overall

People with primary care physicians tend to receive significantly more high-value healthcare such as flu shots, COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters and cancer screenings. They often have better patient experiences and overall access to healthcare as well.

8. You Might Live Longer

Research suggests that people who live in areas where primary care physicians are readily available on average have longer life spans. But benefiting from their services depends on actually going to your primary care doctor.

To find a primary care provider at RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group, visit our Primary Care page.