Do You Have a Primary Care Provider (PCP)? Here’s Why You Should

It’s understandable why someone might wait until they get “sick” to enlist the help of a physician. However, there are so many health-related concerns that benefit from a proactive approach to one’s care. A primary care provider (PCP) acts like a healthcare manager, helping individuals live healthier and longer lives.

If you don’t currently have a dedicated PCP, there are many reasons why you should.

What Does a PCP Do?

Niby Mathew, MD
Niby Mathew, MD

A PCP is the first point of contact within the healthcare system. “It’s basically your point person for health and wellbeing,” states Dr. Niby Mathew, family medicine provider at Riverside Healthcare’s Frankfort Campus.

For example, patients would visit with Dr. Mathew for common concerns like a cold or flu, unexplained pain, or digestive issues. She can also help patients manage chronic conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Another main approach PCPs take is to help patients focus on preventative care. They recommend age-appropriate screenings (e.g. mammograms and colonoscopies). They also work with young patients to encourage healthy habits, such as eating right, exercising, and getting proper sleep.

Often, PCPs are the first ones who help detect early stages of cancer. If patients require a medical specialist, at any time, PCPs can help facilitate that referral. They may also advise about mental health concerns.

“Overall, research shows that having access to a primary care provider directly favors and impacts good health and wellness outcomes. If you need more specialized care for a certain health condition, we will guide you to your next steps and connect you with the right specialist.”

Not All PCPs Are the Same

Primary care providers fall under one category of family medicine doctors—but that’s not all. There are also internists, pediatricians, and professionals who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYNs).

“With family medicine doctors, the unique benefit is that we can care for your whole family. We see babies, children, parents, and grandparents. No matter who is sick in your family, you have one person to call who knows your family history and can provide highly personalized care,” explains Dr. Mathew.

This role differs from the other PCP categories. Internists are trained to treat both simple and complex conditions from early adulthood through old age, so they don’t see children. Alternatively, pediatricians only specialize in caring for children from birth through early adulthood. OB/GYNs are often not thought of as PCPs, but they absolutely are. “They are experts in women’s health, specifically female reproductive health,” notes Dr. Mathew.

What Should You Look for in a PCP?

Anyone who is looking for a PCP may consider a few factors. Trust is a significant one. You want to be able to openly share any health concerns without judgment.

“You want to find someone you can form a connection with, who you can trust. Medicine can be scary; disease can be scary. You want to know you can rely on someone. That they are going to give you their honest truth and treat you as if you were family,” urges Dr. Mathew.

Of course, it’s also essential to find a PCP who is experienced and has in-depth knowledge in their medical field. They should be up-to-date with new treatments and patient data. PCPs should also be skilled in evidence-based practice.

It may not seem so important, but location and convenient office hours can make a huge difference in your PCP care experience. A reliable and care-focused front office ensures you’re not left feeling frustrated.

From Dr. Mathew’s perspective, she finds immense value in creating strong bonds with her patients. It gives her great purpose to serve her patients’ needs—even more so when she can do so from a family basis. “As a full-time physician and mom with limited time, I love that I can take care of multiple family appointments on the same day. That’s why I chose to be a family practitioner in primary care.”

**To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Niby Mathew, Primary Care Provider at Riverside Healthcare, please follow this link.