How a Primary Care Provider Can Help You

Aaron S. Weinberg MD, MPhil
January 26, 2022
4 mins

An ongoing relationship with a trusted, compassionate primary care provider is a cornerstone of maintaining good health — just as important as good nutrition and staying physically active. And an ongoing relationship means routine checkups, which allow you to collaborate with an expert team as you progress toward your health goals. 

Routine checkups also allow your primary care provider to prevent future health issues, such as diabetes or heart disease, or detect them before they have a chance to become serious (and costly): annual physicals are the best preventive care available. (For many people, a yearly checkup is recommended, but depending on your age and other factors, your provider may recommend a different frequency.)

Healthcare Should Never Be One-Size-Fits-All

A common misconception about routine checkups is that they’re by-the-numbers, one-size-fits-all “healthcare formalities”— but this is far from the truth. A good primary care provider is an active partner in your health: they should help you define and reach your wellness goals, suggest screenings and preventive measures based on your individual risk factors, answer all your questions, and follow up with you after appointments to see how, for instance, recommended lifestyle changes or new medications are working for you. 

When you’re thinking about establishing a relationship with a new primary care provider, consider all these things that they can and should be doing for you. (And if your primary care provider is not doing these things, it might be time to seek out a new one!)

+ Discuss your health and life goals with you

Every person is different — and wants different things from life. In addition to standard lab tests and examinations, your doctor should take time to talk with you about what you want from your life. 

(Curious about what happens at a routine checkup? Read “What Is an Annual Physical Exam? Your Yearly Checkup Explained.”)

Before you head to your annual checkup, make a list of your health-related goals. Whether it’s something simple like sleeping better, or something more ambitious like preparing to run your first marathon, your primary care provider can help. 

+ Be a true partner in your health

After you’ve established a relationship with a healthcare provider, you should feel that you have an active partner supporting you in your efforts to feel better and live healthier — one who takes a holistic approach, addressing not only acute conditions as they arise but also helping you navigate other aspects of wellness like nutrition, fitness, sexual health, and mental health. They should monitor existing conditions and recommend new tests and screenings as you grow older or as new information about your family medical history becomes known. And they should follow up after every appointment to check in with you. 

+ Answer your questions

Another thing to bring to your routine checkup is a list of your questions, as well as any new symptoms or concerns you have — and no health issue should be considered too small or too “embarrassing.” Your medical team is ready to discuss any matter relating to your physical or mental health. 

(For more tips on preparing for an annual physical exam, read “Taking Charge of Your Health: How to Prepare for a Routine Checkup.”)

+ Explain healthcare costs and all your payment options

Medical expenses can be confusing! Your provider (or in some cases their office staff) should take time to answer your questions and work with you and your insurance provider (if you have one) to make sure that you understand healthcare costs and that you don’t have any unnecessary expenses. 

(Need help understanding co-pays, deductibles, and the difference between an HMO and a PPO? Read “Primary Care Costs Explained.”)

+ Be easy to reach when medical situations arise

Your primary provider is often the first person you want to see when you feel under the weather, have a minor injury, or just have questions about your health. They or a clinician on their team should be available within a short amount of time (by phone, by email, or as is the case with Carbon Health, even by mobile app) to address issues, provide answers, and see you (or refer you) so you can get any issues addressed. 

+ Be your healthcare advocate

Many primary care providers are equipped to help you manage common chronic conditions (such as diabetes or COPD). But if a health issue (whether it’s related to a chronic condition or not) requires a specialist, your primary care provider should help you find a qualified one, keep apprised of your treatment, and continue being your healthcare advocate.  

Find the Healthcare Provider That’s Right for You

Primary care providers who listen, who follow up after your appointments, and who bring compassion to their work every day — that’s the Carbon Health difference. Find a provider near you, via carbonhealth.com or the Carbon Health app, and start making strides toward your health goals! 

Carbon Health’s medical content is reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals before it is published, but it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition, and before making changes to your healthcare routine.

Aaron S. Weinberg MD, MPhil

Aaron S. Weinberg, MD, MPhil, is Director of Program Development at Carbon Health and triple board-certified in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Internal Medicine.


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