The relationship between patients and their health care team is the foundation of safe, effective health care. Critical to this relationship is trust. Patients need to be able to trust their health care team with their lives and know that this team is putting their needs first.
A solid trusting relationship does more than just feel good. It also improves patient outcomes. A 2017 study found that patients who trusted their health care team report healthier behaviors, fewer symptoms, higher quality of life and greater satisfaction with their treatment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, trust became even more important. Information about the virus and safety recommendations have been ever-evolving. It can be difficult to keep track of what's fact, what's fiction and the right action for you and your family. During times of uncertainty, turn to and trust the expert advice of your primary care provider.
Role of a primary care provider
The term primary care provider can seem like a general, slightly vague term. What does it mean?
A primary care provider is a health care professional who specializes in diagnosing, treating and preventing a wide variety of conditions. Your primary care provider can be a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. This professional provides care for most nonemergent, routine health care needs.
The primary care provider's goal is to deliver the care that's right for you — not use a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailored health care is easier and better for you when you have a meaningful and trusting relationship with your provider.
Focus on prevention
Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." He was talking about fire protection, but his words can apply to health too. It's much easier to prevent a disease than it is to treat one. Staying up to date on vaccinations and screenings can help you stay healthy and catch health problems early when they're easiest to treat.
Your primary care provider will suggest screenings and vaccinations to keep you healthy. Primary care providers give about half of all vaccines in the U.S. and have the expertise to explain the benefits and answer any questions.
A trusting relationship with your primary care provider has been vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your primary care provider can recommend ways to keep you protected from the virus, including getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Some patients have said they trust their primary care providers to treat them if they get infected with COVID-19, but they are hesitant to follow the same providers' recommendation to be vaccinated for COVID-19. This presents a care disconnect.
Unfortunately, one reason for this could be the misinformation and myths circulating about COVID-19 vaccines. If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, don't search for answers on Google or social media. Instead, get the facts from your primary care provider or a reputable source like Mayo Clinic.
Your primary care provider knows your health history and risk factors, has reviewed vaccine safety and efficacy data, and is focused on keeping you healthy during the pandemic. This professional makes fact-based recommendations that put your health care needs first, especially when preventing a serious, potentially life-threatening disease like COVID-19.
Diagnosis and treatment
Primary care providers care for patients over a long period of time, often years. Because of this, they are trained to notice health changes and diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions. They also work with an expert team that provides a well-rounded approach to your health care.
Your primary care provider is trusted to diagnose and treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your primary care provider, along with colleagues in the hospital settings, are at the frontlines of the pandemic. They have seen it all and are equipped to make data-driven treatment plans to care for you.
If needed, your primary care provider can coordinate care with a specialist. This person will monitor your updated medical history and status, and follow up with test results, provide meaningful explanations and describe the next best steps in your health care.
Selecting a trusted primary care provider
If you haven't already, consider doing some research and picking a primary care provider who's right for you. The continuity of care you'll receive and the familiarity you'll experience will help you get the care that's best for you.
Choose a primary care provider who:
- Makes you feel comfortable discussing health topics.
- Answers your questions.
- Communicates well, speaking in terms you can understand.
- Suggests ways to improve your health.
- Recommends screenings and exams appropriate for your age and sex.
- Treats common illnesses and injuries.
- Involves you as a partner in your care — asks what you think, listens to your concerns and expects you to follow through with action when required.
- Explains the options when you need treatment.
- Offers referrals to qualified specialists when necessary.
- Is board-certified, indicating additional training after medical school, and has passed an exam in a medical specialty.
Primary care includes these specialties:
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