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Establishing Your Primary Care Provider

by Laura Reilly, Director of Clinic Nursing and Quality, Southwest Health

You should think of a primary care provider as the quarterback on your care team, and you’re the head coach. The quarterback calls the plays, coordinates with other key players, and holds most of the responsibility. You get to make the big decision of choosing the quarterback. This isn’t a choice that you should rush. Ensuring that you trust your team and have a similar communication style can help the whole team win.

Your primary care provider is your go-to resource for all things health. That’s why it’s crucial to have a provider that you can turn to and feel a self of familiarity and comfort when dealing with uncomfortable topics. If you are constantly seeing different providers, you may not have fostered the same type of trusting relationship if you were to see the same person for years. Your primary provider can have a deeper understanding of both your and your family’s medical history. This is especially important for those currently managing a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease. The CDC reports that 60% of the Unites States population manages at least one condition. Your primary provider helps facilitate screenings and gives you the tools to manage these conditions.

While people are beginning to play catch-up when getting back to annual visits, screenings, and immunizations, now is the perfect time to establish a relationship with a primary care provider if you don’t already have one. Remember these essential factors for healthy living:

  • Meeting with your provider at least once a year reduces your risk of getting sick by checking in and learning new ways to live a healthier life by improving your health.
  • Detecting potentially life-threatening health conditions before your condition worsens is more likely with regular monitoring through blood work, screenings, and talking with your doctor. The earlier your diagnosis or symptoms are found, the higher the chances are for correct treatment and, ultimately, good outcomes.
  • Forming a good working relationship with your doctor is the key to understanding your health and what it takes to live a long, healthy life. Maybe most importantly, with regular checkups, your fear and anxiety around going to the doctor can start to decrease. Once that happens, and you feel more comfortable talking openly about your health and any questions you may have, the better your relationship with your provider becomes.

So, how do you go about choosing your primary care provider? There are a few steps you can take to ensure you are getting the best care at the best price for your unique needs:

  1. Determine who’s in-network. There are a few different tools you have available to help with this task. Firstly, you can call a clinic and verify over the phone or use a helpful online tool offered by your insurance company. The back of your insurance card should have the correct URL for you.
  2. Ask for Recommendations. Just like you would if you were trying to find a mechanic or a daycare, ask your friends and neighbors where they get care! Chances are, you’ll get an excellent recommendation, and it will slim down your search to the specifics you need.
  3. Look for Accessibility. Once you have narrowed down your list of in-network providers that come highly recommended, call and ensure they accept new patients. Not everyone has availability in their schedule. This step can help you get in for an appointment in a shorter timeframe. You can also ask about accessibility during this phone call. Does this building have any barriers that would keep you from receiving care, like a lack of wheelchair ramps, night appointments, available translators, etc.?

Now that you know who your primary care provider is and have an appointment scheduled, there are a few items you need to make sure your first appointment is as efficient as possible.

  1. Bring your insurance card. The patient access clerk will ask for your insurance card so they can make a copy for their records. Make sure you have this card with you for your first appointment not to delay care or payment.
  2. Request existing medical data. If you have a different primary care provider or have a pre-existing medical history, make a call before your appointment to have that information transferred to your new provider.
  3. Make a list of past medical history. The odds are that you are scheduling an appointment to address one specific concern like getting a vaccine or having a question about your health, but being prepared with a list of your medical history, like medications, can help you and your provider round out your medical history. This list includes your family history. If you know your mom has high blood pressure and a history of breast cancer on your dad’s side, include it with your history.

Choosing a primary care provider is not a decision that should be made lightly. You are trusting this person with your medical history and the future of your care. They are your quarterback. You should be able to work together to improve and manage your health.

That’s why Southwest Health continues to expand their Platteville Clinic and include more primary care providers. Recently, we have added three additional Physician Assistants to help create a healthier Southwest Wisconsin.

Michelle Brant, PA-C, loves the variety rural family medicine offers and seeing ages 0-100 for preventative care and acute and chronic disease management. Pediatric care and women’s health are among her favorites in care.

Brittany Chambers, PA-C, has her undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences and a particular interest in preventative healthcare and enjoys partnering with patients to help manage their diabetes.

Brooke Shannon, PA-C, enjoys the variety family medicine offers. She has a particular interest in dermatology and being able to visually see the improvement in a patient’s skin condition with treatment and do more hands-on work such as biopsies or excisions.

If you would like to start building your healthcare team and find your quarterback from any of our sixteen strong providers, please call the Platteville Clinic at Southwest Health at (608) 348 – 4330.