Why It’s Important to Have a Primary Care Physician — Especially If You’re Healthy

Categories: Clinical Insights, For Members

I don’t have a primary care physician.

As a physician assistant (PA), this is something I hear all too often. And it’s usually from a nervous patient who isn’t sick enough to need emergency care, and therefore ends up at an urgent care clinic. As a clinician, I often wonder how a patient could feel comfortable having someone they have no prior relationship with be their first choice for medical help. But when I take off my PA hat, I remember that just like them, I myself, do not have a primary care physician (PCP).

As a millennial, my reasons for not having a PCP are likely similar to those of my own patients. For example, I’m generally healthy and don’t get sick often. And between work and family obligations, I have very little free time to go to the doctor. Even more, doctors’ offices usually have inconvenient hours and/or locations. According to a survey of 4,000 health care consumers, six of the top ten attributes respondents said they look for when seeking primary care were related to convenience and access.1 In fact, the survey found that consumers prioritize convenience over seeing the same doctor each time.

Putting my PA hat back on, I know that the real value of having a PCP is in the continuity of care. For example, a study evaluating the impact of improved primary care access on the quality of care for patients with depression, found that continuity of care was the key driver for success.2 And contrary to popular belief, continuity of care is especially important for those who are generally healthy — should you ever face a serious medical event, having someone who knows your health history can literally be a lifesaver. When it comes to making important health care decisions — especially when you’re nervous or overwhelmed — your PCP can be your greatest advocate. He or she has a big picture of what’s going on with your health and can help you determine the best course of action, from medications to treatment plans. Even more, your PCP knows you well as a person and understands the delicate balance between encouraging you and backing off.

Despite the improved patient outcomes and cost savings associated with having a PCP, only 61% of millennials (adults ages 18-34, and the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce) say they visit their PCP.3 Even more, 40% of millennials say they do not have a close personal relationship with their provider.4

As a provider, it’s important for me to remember that taking the time to get to know my patients — where they’re from, what they do for work, etc. — can go a long way towards building an important relationship over time. As a patient, I need to remember that much like eating my vegetables and going to the gym, I need to put in some effort around my overall health care.

At Grand Rounds, this patient-doctor relationship is exactly what we focus on. More specifically, we zero in on physician quality to guide our patients to the most qualified physicians for their specific needs, including finding a PCP. Our award-winning Care Team also goes the extra mile, helping patients schedule appointments and collecting all their medical records.

The key takeaway here: Don’t wait until you’re sick to find a PCP. Prioritize preventative care and start building that relationship with your doctor now. I’m holding myself accountable to this as well. The peace of mind of having someone you trust in your corner when you need them most is invaluable.

If your employer offers Grand Rounds as a benefit, get in touch with us and we’ll get you on the right path to finding a PCP in your area.



    1. “What Do Consumers Want from Primary Care?” https://www.advisory.com/Research/Market-Innovation-Center/expert-insights/2014/get-the-primary-care-consumer-choice-survey-results The Advisory Board Company, June, 2014
    2. “Effect of Improved Primary Care Access on Quality of Depression Care,” http://www.annfammed.org/content/4/1/69.full.pdf+html Annals of Family Medicine
    3. “Five Ways Tech-Savvy Millennials Alter Health Care Landscape,” http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/five-ways-tech-savvy-millennials-alter-health-care-landscape-300054028.html PNC Healthcare, March, 2015
    4. 2015 State of the Connected Patient, Salesforce

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