Why Choosing a Primary Care Physician Is So Important for Your Care

A primary care physician is a HAP doctor who is usually an internist, family practitioner or pediatrician. Whether or not your plan requires you to choose a PCP, we believe it’s an excellent idea to have a PCP as a “go-to” doctor. Your relationship with your PCP is important because they know your complete medical history and will make sure you get the care you need.

Having a PCP is important. Sure, most of us get that. But despite knowing that it’s important, a lot of people don’t have one. Even in my own family.

Recently, my husband and I had very different experiences involving two injuries. The bottom line: Going to my PCP first ended up saving me a ton of time, out-of-pocket costs and some pain.

Here are our stories.

My husband’s story

After 11 years in our home, we finally pulled up the gross carpet in our 1920s bungalow and had the original hardwood floors refinished. All of the furniture was out, and the shiny, fresh floors were begging for new trim with a fresh coat of paint, so my husband and I decided to replace all the trim in the rooms where we had the floors done.

Over the hum of the compressor, I heard swearing from another room in the house. Let’s just say cuss words are not uncommon while we’re working on the house. So I thought nothing of it until my husband brought up the incident a couple days later. “Honey, I think I might have hurt myself hanging trim the other day,” he said. “It feels like there’s fire shooting up my leg.”

Of course I asked what he thought he did. To which he answered that he was bending down to pick up a piece of trim and felt a pain in his upper thigh, he thought maybe it was a hernia.

Empathetically, I told him to have it checked out.

Let me back up to set the tone a bit. My husband and I have separate insurance plans, each offered through our respective employers. I’m a HAP member and see my PCP regularly. My husband has a PPO plan (that’s not a HAP plan), and since he’s not required to have a PCP, he doesn’t.

I’ve worked in health care my whole life and currently work at HAP, where I communicate to our members the importance of preventive medicine and seeing your PCP. My husband avoids doctors. When it comes to health care, yeah, you can say we’re pretty opposite.

Back to the fire-like pain. Here’s his experience, in his own words:
“At first, I thought I had given myself a hernia so I found a hernia specialist and had an ultrasound. That found nothing.”

“I went to a sports medicine specialist who prescribed that awful MRI where they had to put needles in my hip. That found nothing conclusive but not ‘likely’ to be a hernia.”

“I went back to the sports medicine specialist for a recheck because the symptoms continued. He referred me to a back specialist and sports medicine guy. Because maybe it was something with my back.”

“I never saw the back doctor. My leg still hurts. I just live with the pain and try to stretch it.”

This happened in the summer of 2015. Early on after it happened, he’d often wake up in the middle of the night because of the pain. Fortunately it’s not as bad now, but even after almost two full years, the pain is still there. Some days it’s just uncomfortable and others it’s still a fire burning in his leg.

In the end, it turned out to be a pulled groin. To recap my husband’s experience to take care of the pulled groin: First he saw a specialist, then another specialist, then he had an MRI and went back to the second specialist who referred him to a back specialist.

He didn’t go to a PCP and now he’s just living with it. If he had an established relationship with a PCP, he might have been able to identify the problem earlier and avoid all of the extra appointments.

My story

Earlier this year, I was having some pretty bad pain in my shoulder. I’m pretty active, and the pain was preventing me from doing fairly normal exercises such as pushups. Like many, I tend to carry stress in my shoulders, so pain is not uncommon, but this felt different. I was worried I pulled something or tore a rotator cuff.

0891 Member Exclusive TypeAs a HAP member, I first checked our iStrive® for Better Health digital wellness manager and did a couple of its recommended treatments. But after a few weeks, that nagging pain was still there, so I decided it was time to get it checked out by my doctor.

With my HAP HMO plan, I have a PCP who coordinates my care. For the record, she is awesome and is coincidentally the doctor featured in another Balanced Living post about keeping your medicine cabinet stocked.

So, I went to make the appointment to get the shoulder pain checked out. I have a Henry Ford doctor and was able to request an appointment online through HenryFord.com. It only took about 30 seconds. I got confirmation through my MyChart account so I wouldn’t forget to put it in my calendar. Technology is so great, I’d lose my head these days without my smartphone.

I had a few other things to talk to her about as well, so I wrote a list of things I didn’t want to forget and met her at the Henry Ford Medical Center in Troy. I was up to date on my preventive services, so I didn’t bring our doctor’s visit checklist. But, as someone who works on this blog daily, I should let you know we have a great checklist – available for adults and kids – to download and print to take with you to your visit.

We talked about the issues I had written down in addition to my shoulder pain. For that, she prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug and some physical therapy at the Henry Ford location closest to my office. I needed a regular dermatology appointment (it’d been a good few years since a full freckle count), so we talked about that and I also got a recommendation for a great dermatologist on the first floor at the Troy Henry Ford Medical Center.

Recap of my experience to take care of my shoulder pain: I went to my PCP.

Really, that was it!

After my $20 copay to my PCP, my shoulder issue was resolved and I got a recommendation to a great dermatologist.

I know I’m comparing apples to oranges here with our health stories as our injuries were different, but I can’t ignore how easy it was for me because I had the advice of my PCP. I can’t promise that just by seeing your PCP, you won’t experience multiple visits or have a quick fix like I did. I can tell you they’re there to help you manage your care and be your guide. Maybe if my husband had a go-to doc, the problems might have been identified earlier to get him on the path to recovery faster.

Ways to find a PCP

If you need to find a PCP, check out our provider search tool. HAP members, I’d recommend you log in to your hap.org account first, because the provider search will be customized to your HAP plan.

You can also contact your personal service coordinator or HAP Customer Service for help selecting a PCP.

Categories: Get To Know Your Plan

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