Taking Charge of Your Health: How Your Primary Care Provider Can Help You Stay Ahead of the Curve

August 6, 2020

Taking Charge of Your Health: How Your Primary Care Provider Can Help You Stay Ahead of the Curve
by Lien Swieringa, FNP-C

Since the onset of COVID-19, many of us are paying close attention to how we are feeling, staying alert to any signs that we might not be well and doing what we can to stay healthy. While a pandemic is certainly a bad thing, being more focused on our health is definitely a good thing.

Typically, most of us will visit a doctor when we are sick. However, to truly optimize our health, it is important that we visit our primary care provider for regular check-ups – even when we are well. 

Annual physical exams play a very important role in your health. While a yearly examination may seem unnecessary, especially if you feel great, this regular visit with your primary care provider offers valuable help in preventing health surprises and setbacks down the road. Early diagnosis of many conditions – from cancer to heart disease and other ailments – offers the greatest chance to achieve the best outcome possible and help keep you on the road to good health.

Additionally, regular primary care can help you establish a healthy and trusting relationship with your provider, making it easier and more comfortable for you to discuss any health concerns.

So, what is a primary care provider?
Primary care providers include family physicians, general practitioners and nurse practitioners. They commonly diagnose new illnesses, help manage chronic conditions, advocate for preventive care and help protect the overall wellness of their patients.

They are usually your first contact when seeking care and your principal point of continuing care. In fact, continuity is a key characteristic of primary care. Having a go-to primary care provider offers you a trusted source for routine check-ups, preventive care and conversations about your health concerns. Your provider knows and understands your health history and potential risk factors, which gives them a more complete picture of your health and how to best manage it.

What happens during an annual exam with a primary care provider?
Your primary care provider uses your regular check-ups to see how your body is performing and monitors your vital signs, including weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and other important health markers. Depending on your personal health history, your primary care provider may choose to focus on certain areas during your exam, like additional blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.  

Beyond monitoring and improving your health, an annual check-up allows you and your provider to develop a strong provider-patient relationship, which can go a long way in helping identify even the smallest changes in your health or lifestyle. If you suffer from any chronic conditions, your primary care provider can help you manage them and stay tuned in to any changes in your condition that may need attention.

Yearly exams are also the best way for a primary care provider to ensure that you are getting the preventive health screenings and important vaccinations you need at the right times.  

Are annual exams expensive? 

Getting an annual exam doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, most insurance plans fully cover one check-up each year. You should contact your insurance provider for details regarding your plan’s coverage.

If you haven’t scheduled your annual check-up, now is a great time to get it on the calendar. Provider offices are taking extra precautions to protect the health and safety of their patients, so it’s never been safer to visit your primary care provider. Your primary care provider may even have a few more openings for annual exam visits than usual.

If you don’t have a primary care provider, Providence Health can help. Call 800-424-DOCS to be connected with a primary care provider to help you stay healthy for all your tomorrows.

About the Author

Lien Swieringa, BSN, MSN, FNP-C, is a licensed Family Nurse Practitioner at Providence Columbia Medical Associates in Columbia, SC. She earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Hope College in Holland, MI, and a Master of Science in nursing from Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, KY. Lien is also a Registered Nurse in the State of South Carolina. Lien's professional experience includes family medicine, women's health, and preventive medicine.