Can Having A Primary Care Doctor Save Your Life?

by drpepermd

Remember all of your checkups with your pediatrician? Sometimes you had to get a shot (and get held down by the nurses), most times they just took your height and weight, and every time you got a lollipop and stickers.  Then, when you went off to college and turned 18, it all stopped.

The untimely death of Jonathan Larsen, the writer and composer of Rent, highlights the danger of not having a primary care doctor. After experiencing crushing chest pains over several days, nearly collapsing at the theater, Larsen went to two different ERs, was treated by two different doctors, and was misdiagnosed twice; ultimately, he died as a result.

Had he had a primary care doctor, would Jonathan Larsen still be alive today? While there’s no way of knowing for sure, having a primary care doctor who could have intervened on his behalf and ordered additional tests at the second ER visit might have made a difference.

Today, after you age out of your pediatrician, what do you do when you get sick? You probably go to an urgent care center, which is okay for most things most of the time. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new city and haven’t had time to find a new doctor, it’s hard to figure out who accepts your insurance, or the convenience of urgent care is appealing.

Here’s the thing: For the best healthcare, you still need a doctor who knows you.

  • They know you so they spend less time collecting information and more time focusing on you, resulting in a shorter but complete visit.
  • They know your family history so red flags can go off depending on your symptoms.
  • They know all the times you’ve been ill and can identify health patterns or problems.
  • They know your lifestyle habits and can provide the often-overlooked health counseling.
  • They know if you need a follow up call to see if you’re feeling better.

While you might not get those lollipops and stickers from your primary care doctor now, you’ll get something even better in return: good health.