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Living Well

My Doctor and Me—How to Have a Meaningful Relationship

Last updated: Nov 21, 2016

Who do you trust to watch out for your wellbeing and offer advice when you develop a new symptom? For most people, the answer is their primary care physician (PCP), also known as a general practitioner or family physician.

As the quarterbacks of patient care, PCPs follow, screen, and treat individuals throughout the lifespan. They also serve as the first point of contact when people have a cold or infection, or a new health concern, such as difficulty breathing or prolonged feelings of sadness. 

“PCPs look out for people throughout their entire medical journey, both when they are sick and in good health,” says Kerry LeBenger, MD, chair of adult medicine at Summit Medical Group. “They watch your cholesterol, keep track of screenings that prevent disease, and make sure that mole on your back really is nothing to be concerned about.”

Regular Checkups Lead to Healthier Lives  

Research shows that individuals who have an ongoing relationship with their PCP have better overall health, longer lives, and fewer health care costs. Dr. LeBenger urges patients to visit their PCP  every year and establish this partnership while they are young so they can identify problems before they start.

“It is important to have a PCP who knows you well, because she or he will know how you might react to a new medication, understand that you need a screening test early based on your family history, or can predict how an elective surgery would impact your quality of life. These are decisions that best practices and computer programs may not predict.”

PCP’s Treat a Variety of Conditions   

There are more than one hundred PCPs at Summit Medical Group—many offer convenient weekend and after-hour appointments. With access to more than 80 medical specialties and services, they help patients navigate the health care system and recommend when additional tests or doctor’s visits are needed.  

Our PCPs treat and manage a variety of conditions, including:

  • Short term illnesses, such as colds, infections, sprains, and headaches
  • Chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease
  • Diseases of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat; bones and joints; and urinary system
  • Mental and behavioral health, including advice about bereavement, addiction, depression, and anxiety
  • Reproductive counseling and family planning

General Practitioners Help Prevent Disease

Our PCPs coordinate and advise patients about preventative care, including:

  • Routine physical exams, blood tests, and vaccinations, such as the flu, pneumonia, and tetanus
  • Screenings for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar; colon, cervical, and breast cancers; and sexually transmitting diseases
  • Adopting healthy lifestyle choices to prevent future illness.

“The best disease to have is the one you never get,” says Dr. LeBenger. “Even if you think you are healthy,  check-ups are important because you may not realize you are gaining weight, have high blood pressure, or are prediabetic. Most of these conditions do not have symptoms in the early stages.”

Men and Young People Forget to Schedule Checkups

Routine doctor’s visits are particularly important for men who are three times less likely to see the doctor regularly than women.

“People take their car in for an inspection so they do not break down on the road, but they forget to take themselves in for a check-up,” Dr. LeBenger says.

“Many people—especially younger individuals—are busy and think they do not need a PCP. If they get sick with a sore throat they run to the local retail clinic, sometimes in a pharmacy, for antibiotics. But your relationship with a PCP is more important for longevity and a good healthy life than anything else.”

How to Choose a Primary Care Physician

Dr. LeBenger advises patients to find someone they feel comfortable with and can speak to honestly. To help find a physician who is right for you, each internist has a profile page that shares information about their background and personal interests.

“You need to bond with your Doc —some people like physicians who are matter of fact, while others like good conversationalists,” he says. “If the first doctor you see is not right for you, we have more than 100 to choose from.”

Call to Action: When was your last check-up? Individuals who have an ongoing relationship with a general practitioner are healthier. To schedule an appointment, call 908-273-4300. If have non-urgent health problem during the evening, weekends, or holidays, call the Fast Track service at 908-277-8602 to schedule a same day appointment.

References:

  1. Interview with Kerry LeBenger, MD, internal medicine physician, 11/9/16
  2. U.S. News & World Report. “Men Urged to Lead by Example and See a Doctor Regularly.” U.S. News & World Report. 6 June 2011. Web. 16 November 2016. 
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