Why You Really Need a Primary Care Physician
In today’s world of urgent care centers and on-demand medicine, it might seem inconvenient to stay in touch with a primary care physician (PCP). But, with rapidly changing screening guidelines and long-term health recommendations, keeping in contact with a trusted provider is more important than ever.
One of the major benefits of staying in touch with a PCP or choosing one if you don’t have one is the ability to maintain a detailed and up-to-date health history, which often incorporates details from your immediate and extended family.
“When we meet new patients for the first time, we always go through all members of their family and list their medical problems,” said Susan K. Fidler, MD, assistant director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at Abington - Jefferson Health. “That would include specific questions about some diagnoses that might be hereditary.”
Creating a Health History
A health history details your previous diagnoses and treatments, as well as diagnoses within your family. It can be used to make informed decisions about current and future treatments, or track the success of a current regimen.
“For certain conditions that are inherited, we will screen for them when the guidelines recommend, but it helps to know what to look for,” said Dr. Fidler. “With the hints found in a health history, we can spot warning signs early on—sometimes even before a condition develops.”
Dr. Fidler points out that most health issues are easier to treat in their early stages, and the more time doctors have to treat a condition, the better the outcome.
In order to create a health history, most patients will complete a questionnaire before their first appointment. Having in depth conversations during appointments and updating questionnaires over the years will keep the information current. Many primary care physicians enjoy treating multiple members of the same family, spanning generations.
"When we're able to see multiple members of the same family, we begin to understand their social history, as well as their health history,” said Dr. Fidler. “We get to know what's important to them.”
Getting the Most Out of Primary Care
A personal and family health history can be used to track some of the most common hereditary chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Cancer diagnoses should also be carefully monitored.
“Even mental health issues can often be hereditary, and we can monitor for early indicators,” said Dr. Fidler. “Knowing your risk for these conditions can help us focus on prevention. If you have a strong family history of diabetes and heart disease, not only will we screen for them earlier, but we’ll focus on lifestyle changes to prevent them.”
In order to get the most out of your primary care experience, it’s important to be active in your healthcare journey. Dr. Fidler says she enjoys when patients come in with questions they would like to explore.
“We want to know your concerns and your goals so we can help you reach them,” she said.
Conversations with family members about their health will also give you a full picture of possible hereditary conditions, and sharing those updates with your doctor will provide the best results.
If you would like to find a primary care physician, please call Physician Referral at 215-481-MEDI (6334).