Get Established with a Primary Care Provider
It’s important for you to get established with a primary care provider (PCP). Establishing an ongoing and long-term relationship with a primary care provider can help you with personalizing your healthcare. A primary care physician will work with other specialists to coordinate all aspects of your healthcare.
What is a Primary Care Provider?
A PCP typically is a licensed and board certified provider who evaluates individuals for common illnesses and medical conditions. PCPs will partner with their patients to help them to better understand their symptoms and physical findings in an effort to make an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan. PCPs are able to perform basic medical testing and interpret routine test results (i.e. blood, electrocardiograms, x-rays). PCPs generally refer patients to specialists (i.e. Cardiologist, Endocrinologists, etc) if they require extensive evaluation of a particular body system.
Primary care evaluations are usually provided in an outpatient medical office. If you are admitted to the hospital, your PCP may partner with your in-patient care team to direct your care.
The goals of a primary care evaluation are to collect and analyze the following information:
- Personal medical history
- Comprehensive family health history (if possible three generations)
- Report of current symptoms
- Other health related information (environmental conditions and social behaviors)
Typically following the collection the above information, patients will undergo a physical examination.
Select a Primary Care Provider
It is important to select a physician with whom you feel comfortable with providing your medical care. You should consider what things are most important to you and prioritize each item on your list. According to Dr. Kathryn Teng, Director of the Center for Personalized Healthcare, you should consider the following:
- Convenience: You need to be able to have easy access to your provider’s office so that if you are sick and need to be seen, you can get there quickly and easily.
- Rapport: You need to feel comfortable sharing your deepest concerns with your provider so that you can partner with him/her to help you stay as healthy and productive as possible.
- Medical home: You need to know what resources and services are readily available to you. If you would need to go elsewhere for certain services, your provider should be well educated about services outside the immediate scope of primary care. In multi-specialty group practices such as Cleveland Clinic, you have access to many different resources and services.
Develop and Maintain a Family Health History
Knowing your family health history is another way you can help with personalizing your care. Providing your healthcare providers with information about your family health history can help them to determine if you are at increased risk for developing an inherited or genetic condition. You should consider the following information when recording your family health history:
- Type of relative (ie. parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle)
- Medical conditions
- Age of diagnosis
- If relative is deceased, age and cause of death
It is also important to make updates to this information as it becomes available to you and share it with your physician. You should considering updating your family health history once every year or two.
Visit the Surgeon’s General Online Family History tool.
Keep a Medical Journal
If you are not feeling well or if you have specific health concerns, you should keep a medical journal. By keeping a medical journal, you will be taking a pro-active approach regarding monitoring your health and it will enable you to partner with your physician regarding your healthcare. You should consider documenting the following in your journal:
- Dates & times of the events
- Description of the events
* If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, please keep a log of your readings with date and time of each reading.
Tips on Optimizing Your Visit Time
- Most office visits are 15-20 minutes long. Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to allow for the front office staff to check you in and obtain your vital signs. This will allow you to have the full office visit time with your physician if needed.
- Keep a list of your concerns and prioritize these concerns so that you can address those that are most important to you first. This is also helpful so that you do not forget your concerns once you are in the room.
- Bring your medication bottles or a list of your medications (with doses and instructions) to every visit. Please also include herbal medications and supplements.
- Do not be afraid to tell you provider your concerns and preferences. It is very important that we get all information in order to help guide decision-making.