As a health navigator, throughout the day I ask people the name of their primary care provider. Many share that they’ve seen their primary care provider for decades. But what happens if you do not have a provider or your provider retires?
A primary care provider is a healthcare professional who gains a deep understanding of an individual’s medical needs. By establishing this long-term relationship, the primary care provider can manage that person’s care over the course of a lifespan. Regardless of age, everyone needs to have a wellness visit each year.
A primary care provider can identify potential health problems early, offer health education and recommendations, treat short- and long-term health issues, suggest health screenings and more, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And, when a referral for a specialist is needed, the primary care provider can provide this. In fact, some insurances require the primary care provider to serve as a gatekeeper for these services.
So what happens if you do not see a primary care provider yearly? If you visit your provider only when needed every few years, you may become an “inactive” patient. This means you would have to re-establish care and would be considered a new patient, and you may have to find a different provider if yours isn’t seeing new patients. The average wait time for a new provider is several months, and many are not accepting new patients.
For the best coordination of your medical care, overall wellness and access to specialists and services, having a primary care provider is your best first step. So let me ask you: Who is yours?
Don’t have a primary care provider? Call Care Connect at 410-871-7000 or visit lifebridgehealth.org/hellobrave to find one that’s right for you.
Lisa Henson, BSN, RN, is a health navigator at Carroll Hospital.