When should I find a primary care provider?

Family, internal and pediatric medicine providers say simply: as soon as possible

A mature woman shakes hands with a doctors whose back is to the camera. They are in an exam room with a computer screen in the background.

It can be tough to know when it’s the right time to find a primary care provider.

Before we talk about that, it’s important to know what exactly a primary care provider is.

Numerous Sanford Health providers have referred to a primary care provider as the “quarterback” of your health care needs. They help you to navigate and make the right decision that best suits you and your family’s needs.

So, when is the right time to start a huddle and chat with your quarterback?

The sooner the better

If you ask Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Sanford Health family medicine specialist Scott Boyens, M.D., it’s as soon as possible.

“You never know what acute health issue will arise. Not having a go-to physician or clinic can only increase the stress of the situation,” he said.

He added that a primary care physician can help you catch problems before they arise.

“Primary care clinicians are also responsible for a lot of your preventative health needs, such as cancer screenings and immunizations, and can help you stay up to date on what is recommended,” he said.

Related: Wellness exams, vaccines now could prevent outbreaks later

Boyens said when looking for a primary care provider, things to consider include:

  • If the clinic and clinicians are in a patient’s insurance network
  • Which clinic location works best for a patient’s family?
  • Does the clinician have similar philosophies as you, the patient?

Bismarck, North Dakota-based internal medicine specialist Stephanie Canham, M.D. says looking at a provider’s online profile can help a patient decide if that provider is the right one for them. 

“If you have a complicated, chronic medical problem, you may want to confirm that the provider is comfortable managing it prior to establishing,” she added.

Come prepared and patient

It’s perfectly natural for a perspective patient to feel overwhelmed, said Fargo, North Dakota-based Sanford Health family care specialist Steve Roseno, M.D. It can feel like a daunting process.

He said the most important thing to consider is if the provider “seems like they would be a good fit for you.”

“Once you set up the appointment, try to set an agenda of things you are concerned about this way you can go over them with your provider. Keep in mind that depending on the concerns, there may not be time to address them all, but close follow-up can always be made to continue the discussion,” he said.

He added that if it’s been a while since a patient has seen a provider, the provider may have suggestions for a patient’s health.

“Cancer screenings, lab work, or vaccinations are a few. These don’t have to be done one at a time. They can be spread out over several appointments if they appear overwhelming,” he explained. 

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Posted In Children's, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine

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