Your primary care provider (PCP) is your go-to for annual physicals and sick visits — but they can also provide comprehensive care well beyond annual checkups. We’re here to explain the additional kinds of services you might not know your PCP can provide.
What is a Primary Care Provider?
Your primary care provider may be a physician (Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or physician assistant. They practice general health care, addressing a wide variety of health concerns for patients. They are usually the first point of contact if you have a health concern. They want to build a trusting relationship with you as your long-term family provider.
Mollie McCormick, a physician assistant at AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care at Calhoun, advises people to choose and stay with the same PCP. “An advantage of having a PCP is knowing you have someone to turn to when a new problem arises or you are unsure where to go next for a certain problem. A PCP can manage medications in between transferring specialists or waiting to see a specialist,” said McCormick.
You might visit a PCP for:
- Annual wellness visits
- A referral to a specialist
- Blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol tests
- Early detection of conditions and illnesses
- Flu shots and immunizations
- Management of chronic conditions
- Preventive care
- Treatment for common illnesses
“Even if you see your PCP once a year, it is important to establish this relationship for years to come and feel as if you have a home base for your overall health and wellbeing,” said McCormick. “Our bodies do change, and unfortunate things may happen, but you have someone on your side to guide you in times of need.”
Primary care providers offer personalized guidance in managing a number of common issues and conditions, such as:
1. Anxiety and Depression
PCPs are often the first to identify, diagnose and initiate treatment for mental health conditions. Two of the most common diagnoses in family medicine are anxiety and depression. They can prescribe medications like antidepressants, and the most common type of referral is for mental health counseling.
2. Digestive Issues
For digestive problems, the first point of contact should be your primary care provider. For issues like acid reflux and GERD, your primary care doctor can treat you without a referral. If your PCP determines you need more specialized care, they will likely refer you to a gastroenterologist.
3. Pain Management
Pain is one of the most common reasons patients seek medical attention, usually beginning with their primary care provider. Your family doctor can help alleviate your pain associated with injuries, cancer, osteoarthritis, diabetes and more. They may use pain medication, steroid injections or refer you to physical therapy.
Your primary care provider can effectively diagnose and treat diabetes unless a patient needs to be referred to an endocrinologist. Your PCP will work closely with you to develop a plan that helps you understand your diagnosis and manage your condition.
5. Gynecological Services
Women benefit from having both PCPs and OB/GYN providers. While PCPs do not provide the same specialized care that OB/GYNs do, your PCP can provide some of the same services, like prescribing birth control pills, treating vaginal or urinary tract infections and performing certain health screenings. They can also refer you for mammograms and coordinate with other specialists depending on your needs and circumstances.
Whole-Person Primary Care
Developing an ongoing relationship with your primary care physician and making your health a priority is the best thing for you long-term. “A patient should look for someone they find is easy to communicate with and they are able to feel heard, supported and cared for,” said McCormick.
Our primary care providers are focused on your whole-person health. Learn more about AdventHealth’s network of more than 30 primary care providers across Northwest Georgia at GeorgiaPCPExperts.com.