Why having a primary care doctor is importantA Partner for Life – Why having a primary care doctor is important

If you’re like a lot of adults, you probably never miss your kids’ check-ups, but aren’t so vigilant about your own doctor visits. And that’s too bad, because having a relationship with a primary care provider is important no matter what your age, says Michael McDonnell, M.D., an internist at Mercy. A primary care doctor can treat your temporary ills and ailments, but also help you prevent or catch health issues before they become serious health challenges. “My job is not just to get you healthy today,” says Dr. McDonnell. “My job is to make sure you’re healthy 30 years from now.”

Annual exams, and everything in between
Annual check-ups aren’t just for kids, and people should remember their primary care doctor isn’t only for when they’re sick, says Niva Lubin-Johnson, M.D., an internist who practices at Mercy Medical at Chatham. “At your annual exam, we’ll make sure you get all the recommended screenings for your age,” she says. “Every-thing from checking your blood pressure or cholesterol, to cancer and diabetes screenings. All of these are really important to maintaining your health, and all of them can be addressed at your annual visit.”

The annual exam is also a good time to discuss any changes in your life or health so your doctor can help you adjust to them. If, for example, you lost your job and are feeling down, your doctor can talk about steps you can take to improve your mood. Or if your knees are starting to bother you, your doctor can suggest some strategies to lessen your pain. Your doctor may even pick up on health changes that you haven’t noticed yourself, and then recommend some healthy living remedies. “Someone might come in not having any idea their blood pressure is up or they’re at risk for diabetes,” says Dr. Lubin-Johnson. “Because we’re on top of changes in their health, we can identify those issues early and then provide some lifestyle suggestions that can help them avoid medication or worsening health.”

Health partners
In between your annual exams, think of your primary care doctor as your go-to health advisor, says Dr. McDonnell. Even if your health insurance doesn’t require a referral for specialty care, your primary care physician is the first call you should make when you have a health concern. “Your primary care doctor is like the captain of the ship,” Dr. McDonnell says. “We’re the ones who keep it all straight, who understand how your various health issues relate to each another and who can coordinate your care for you.”

“We’re as much your physician as we are your health advocate,” agrees Jennifer Angeles-Baguisa, M.D., an internist who practices at Mercy Medical at Dearborn Station. If you have a regular doctor, one whom you see year after year and develop a relationship with, he or she can become a trusted advisor and confidante and partner, Dr. Angeles-Baguisa says. “We’re not just going to tell you what to do and we’re not just going to treat one part of you. We want to work with you to keep all of you healthy.”


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