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Why Everyone Needs Primary Care

Many young, healthy adults have come to rely on urgent care or walk-in clinics every time they get sick. While those options are quick and convenient ways to get care, establishing a relationship with a primary care clinician in your 20s or 30s can help long-term health.

Northeast Medical Group primary care doctor Greg Mulvey, MD, said patients should look at primary care as their first and last line of defense. Even for patients who face complex medical conditions requiring a specialist, a primary care clinician can help identify overall health issues.

“It takes someone who is going to look back, look at the forest through the trees and make sure the critical things are getting done,” Dr. Mulvey said.

Primary care v. walk-in medical clinic

Dr. Mulvey said he understands the allure of urgent care, but it’s important for patients to understand the difference between a walk-in and primary care. A walk-in will address an acute illness like the flu if you cannot get in to see your doctor.

However, walk-ins are not a substitute for care provided by a primary care clinician. They diagnose illnesses and manage conditions like diabetes or hypertension. If needed, a primary care clinician can refer you to a specialist while helping to support your overall care.

A primary care clinician can also be a great resource in between visits. During the pandemic for example, patients could turn to their doctor for answers about safety and prevention.

How often should you see a primary care doctor?

In general:

  • Healthy patients should see their doctor yearly
  • Older patients may need to see their doctor more often
  • Patients with underlying conditions may need to see their doctor more often

Even if you think nothing has changed since your last visit one year ago, Dr. Mulvey encourages his patients to keep their yearly appointments. Even something like a change in your family’s medical history could be important to talk about with your doctor.

Prepare for your visit

When you see your doctor for your annual exam, get the most out of your appointment by preparing ahead of time:

  • Obtain your previous medical records
  • Gather your family history
  • Write down a list of questions or concerns

How to find a doctor

Ready to find a doctor? Dr. Mulvey said patients should look for a clinician they feel comfortable seeing long term. Family and friends can make great recommendations. If your sibling likes their doctor, they might be a good fit for you too.

Another important consideration is location. If your doctor’s office is far away, you are more likely to skip appointments.

Lastly, if you see a doctor and do not feel like they are a good fit -- that is OK too. The important thing is finding a clinician you will see regularly in the years to come.

Find a primary care doctor online, or call the Northeast Medical Group referral line at 855-NEMG-MDS.