For early Americans, a primary care physician was the first thing you looked for in town. Not the nearest Trader Joe’s; not the local gym. Having a primary care physician—with their little black bag and all—was considered one of the most important aspects of daily life. In the age of Google, it’s easy to lose sight of the huge value primary care doctors bring into our life.  Here are 6 reasons why having a primary care physician is the best thing you can do for your health, and how you can find one that’s convenient, affordable, and skilled near you.

  1. 85% of your health needs are routine and predictable

If nothing else, a major benefit of primary care physicians are their ability to focus on preventative care instead of just reactive care. Instead of only treating you and putting you on medication when the damage is already done and your life is already interrupted by an illness, primary care physicians help you avoid getting sick in the first place. From your diet, lifestyle changes, family planning, frequent cancer screenings, and monitoring your health, your primary care doctor can help build a strong, healthy foundation and make smart, educated decisions. They can help you connect the dots and improve every area of your life like problems with sleep, hormones, weight, and other issues that you just put up with because you don’t know how to fix them. They’re concerned about your longevity and quality of your life—not just getting you through an illness.

2. 71% of all hospital visits could have been avoided.

When we, or one of our beloved family members, has an emergency—like slicing your finger, your child fell and hit their head, your arm started having a shooting pain—we don’t know what to do. In the heat of the moment, our instinct is to dial 911 and rush to an emergency room. It doesn’t matter the cost if it’s a life and death situation, right? But really, 71% of the time, it’s not. A study in the Becker’s Hospital Review showed that more than half of all hospital visits could have been avoided. Because most emergencies aren’t really emergencies. But what else are we supposed to do? Just stick it out and hope it doesn’t get worse and cause serious harm to us or our loved ones? That’s where your primary care physician can bring you even more value. Primary care doctors, specifically those in the direct primary care model like First Primary Care, are just one, free text or call away. Your primary care physician will be on the phone with you the moment your child falls or you slice a gnarly gash in your hand. Through video chat, they can examine the area and tell if you need to go to the ER immediately or if it can wait until the next day when they can see you. And 71% of the time (if not more), you avoid an uber expensive trip to the ER. Dr. Geetinder Goyal of First Primary Care sees cases like this all the time. Just recently, he had a patient message him on a weekend after she had sliced her finger open while cooking dinner. Within 5 minutes, Dr. Goyal was on the phone with her, talking her off the ledge of rushing to the ER. He instructed her on how to best wrap it up until he could see her first thing the next morning. The next morning, he opened his clinic for her, sutured her wound, and gave her a Tetanus shot. The entire interaction, in less than 24 hours, cost her zero dollars. Your primary care physician will do whatever it takes to make sure you save money, avoid the ER, and stay healthy.

3. They are your quarterback through this complicated healthcare system.

Without having a doctor in the family, it’s pretty hard to navigate through such a complicated field. How do I know this specialist and their advice is good for me? Am I being overcharged for this medication/procedure/test? Do I need to visit the ER for this pain I’m feeling or is it non-urgent? Should I try this treatment or do the risks outweigh the reward? Your primary care doctor is like having a doctor in the family. They already know you, your history, your lifestyle, and the medical system. They can actually guide you through any decision you need to make, even when it comes to the advice of your specific specialist. And of course, they have access to large networks of trusted partners and specialists that they often work closely with, so you never have to be lost in the dark of who to turn to.

4. You could save thousands of dollars

One thing this broken healthcare system gets away with a lot is overcharging patients. When we’re faced with a medical test, procedure, or medication that may save our life, it’s hard to argue the price tag it comes with. Sometimes, it’s literally life or death. And that’s why most people don’t argue how much it may cost. But your primary care physician can take a look at the price you’re being charged, and tell you whether or not it’s fair or where you can find it cheaper. Dr. Thi Vo of First Primary Care had a patient get her CMP and CBC labs done before each of her chemo treatments. When Dr. Vo asked her patient how much she paid for the labs, her patient told her she had been charged $160-170. Dr. Vo was horrified. The wholesale pricing of those labs was less than $3. If she hadn’t had a primary care doctor to ask the question, she never would have even considered she was being overcharged.  Doctors have far more resources in detecting and finding affordable pricing in the medical field than patients do, and their guidance can save hundreds and thousands of dollars in the long run.

5. Studies show you’ll live longer

Adults with primary care doctors are 19% less likely to experience premature death than those who only see specialists, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund. That’s because primary care doctors aren’t just there for you when you’re sick. In fact, there are arguably more benefits to seeing your primary care physician when you’re healthy versus just when you’re sick. They can focus on what they do best—preventative healthcare, instead of just reactive healthcare. What’s the difference?

Reactive healthcare focuses mainly on reacting and treating symptoms after they have already manifested. Preventative healthcare focuses on getting to know and treating patients before they ever exhibit symptoms to keep them from ever manifesting or, at the very least, lessen their severity when they do come.

While it’s pretty hard to find a doctor that actually has the time to treat you preventatively instead of reactively, many doctors are branching out to other healthcare models, like direct primary care, that make it possible (and cheaper).

6. Your specialist can’t give you holistic care

Many women use their OBGYN as their primary care physician because they’re comfortable with them and can provide them with a bulk of their well-woman care. But one thing they (and any other specialist that may be taking the place of your primary care doctor) can’t do is give you holistic care.  Holistic care means treating and caring for all of you—mind, body, emotion. Specialists and urgent care doctors are focused on their one speciality (which is their benefit outside of primary care), and they are often not thinking about all the other aspects that may go into your health.  Primary care physicians focus on issues you may have and put it into the perspective of your whole person—taking into account other underlying illnesses you may have, medications, mental health, and lifestyle.

How to find a convenient primary care doctor at an affordable price

Despite all the positives to having a primary care doctor, 1/4th of all adults, and 50% of people under 30, don’t have a primary care physician.  And in the current, broken state of our American healthcare system, that’s no surprise. It’s inconvenient, unaffordable, and nearly impossible to maintain a relationship with a primary care doctor. However, as mentioned before, a little-known revolution of doctors are moving to a new model of medicine to change this. This model, known as direct primary care (DPC), is membership-based. For one, fixed monthly fee, patients are assigned their own physician that they can see in-person, through video chat, text, or phone call.  This physician is capped at only a few hundred patients so they always have enough time to give unlimited, quality care to their patients. For less than $3 a day, the mission is to make healthcare affordable, convenient, and personal once again. Because primary care doctors are vital to our health, it should be easy to receive the care needed. There are hundreds of DPC clinics across the country, and you can find one near you here. To learn more about how you can get a no-strings-attached membership for less than $3 a day, check out this Houston membership. It’s time we got back to the patient-doctor relationship we once had in this country. So stop making excuses for putting off your health, and find a primary care doctor near you today.

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