So who’s your doctor?

Having a primary care provider is an important step in your lifelong health care, and here’s why

You’ve had a nagging headache for more than a week. Your toddler keeps complaining of a sore throat. Your elderly mother-in-law is increasingly forgetful. Who you gonna call?

No, not the Ghostbusters, but your doctor, of course. That is, if you have your own doctor or other go-to primary care provider, or PCP, as they are generally known. In past generations, most everyone had a personal doctor — some who even made house calls. Today there are different types of PCPs. Now when you visit the doctor’s office, whether you are ill or for a routine wellness exam, you might be seen by a physician, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant.

So what exactly is a PCP and what healthcare services do they provide? And why should you have one at every stage of your life?

“We provide comprehensive care to our patients,” says Steven Benaderet, MD, a PCP and regional medical director for Northeast Medical Group. “We are there for you not only when you are sick but also to make sure you stay well now and throughout your life.” 

He explains that the role of a PCP is to provide preventive care, to diagnose and treat common medical conditions and to help patients with urgent conditions find the best place for treatment. PCPs may refer their patients to cardiologists, endocrinologists, orthopedists or other medical specialists. 

Primary care is important at every stage of your life, evolving as you age, and you can choose to have different PCPs along the way. Dr. Benaderet is a family practitioner, a type of PCP who cares for children and adults. Women may have an obstetrician/gynecologist (Ob/Gyn), in addition to a PCP, who provides general care around women's health as well as perinatal care during pregnancy. Children have a pediatrician, often until age 21. During adult years, your PCP might be a family practitioner or an internist, a doctor trained to diagnose, treat and manage a wide range of medical conditions. Once you reach your more advanced years, it might be appropriate to be seeing a geriatrician, a doctor who oversees various medical needs related to aging, from osteoporosis to Alzheimer’s disease.

While diagnosing and treating common ailments like headaches and sore throats is a vital role of PCPs, preventing illnesses and chronic conditions is also key. That is why PCPs recommend seeing them for regular physical exams and wellness visits. They will check your vital signs — height, weight, heart rate, eyes, ears, etc. — and perhaps arrange for specialists to conduct preventive tests, including colonoscopies and blood screenings. 

“When I send someone for a test, I’m not just checking a box,” Dr. Benaderet states. “It’s to make sure they don’t develop colon cancer, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or other conditions that may be preventable.”

Depending on the results of such tests, your PCP may suggest that you adjust your diet, begin an exercise routine or make other lifestyle changes. “By staying healthy in your younger years, you’ll be better prepared to remain healthy during your golden years,” Dr. Benaderet says.

If you do not already have a PCP, you can find one on the Northeast Medical Group website or ask a trusted relative or friend for a recommendation. Be sure they accept your health insurance and find out exactly what services are covered. Finally, Dr. Benaderet says, make sure it is a good match. “Your health care is always a relationship, so you should feel comfortable with the primary care providers and everyone else in the office.” 

Do you need an appointment with a Northeast Medical Group primary care physician near you? For an appointment, call 855-636-4637 or book an appointment online.