Primary care and your health
The diverse nature of primary care is what drew Neilene Folks to it.
“It doesn’t lock you into only one area of care,” said Folks, a physician assistant at UCHealth Primary Care in Craig. “Primary care covers so many different things – ages, genders, various conditions, acute and chronic illnesses, prevention, screenings, the list goes on.”
What is primary care?
As the name suggests, primary care is typically your first stop when it comes to your health.
“Your primary care provider is your go-to for everything from annual exams and screenings to a newly developed acute symptom,” said Folks. “We take time to further our patient’s education about their health and any needs that may arise.”
Many people see the same primary care provider for a number of years, or even their whole life. There’s benefits to that.
“By developing relationships with patients, primary care providers know a patient’s medical history and a sense of trust can be developed,” said Folks. “When we couple those things with a patient’s new health concern, it allows us to deliver thorough, efficient care.”
Primary care is routine care
The proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” holds true in the world of primary care.
“If we can prevent something or jump on it early, it’s always better than having to react to it,” said Folks. “This is where mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate screenings, skin checks and other screenings can keep us healthy.”
Many patients see a primary care provider annually for an exam. Annual exams, which are often referenced as a yearly physical, include a range of components, including updating the patient’s health history, taking vital signs and performing a head-to-toe exam. Reminders for preventive screenings can also be shared during these exams.
“We take our cars in for routine maintenance; we should do the same for ourselves,” said Folks. “Regular screenings can prevent something from developing into a more concerning health condition, and they can help you stay ahead of any health concerns that may be lurking around.”
Scope of care
Due to its broad scope, follow-up from a diagnosis can often be treated within the primary care setting.
“If a patient is diagnosed with diabetes, for example, we can oftentimes provide the necessary care and management,” said Folks. “The same goes for many heart conditions and orthopedic needs. If we reach the end of our scope of knowledge and treatment, we then will make referrals to endocrinology, heart and vascular, or orthopedic surgery, respectively, or whatever other specialist might be best for the patient.”
Primary care providers can diagnose and treat many health-related conditions, including allergies, asthma, infections, high blood pressure, migraines, sprains and strains, wound management, and more.
Additionally, patients may have an opportunity to receive behavioral health services during a primary care appointment. In many clinics, licensed clinical social workers, among other behavioral health care specialists, work alongside primary care providers to offer immediate resources to existing patients with mental health concerns.
General health recommendations
While seeking routine medical care and completing preventative screenings are components of a healthy life, so are certain daily practices.
Folks recommends her patients exercise regularly, consume a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and use alcohol responsibly.
“Those are some of the easiest ways you can positively impact your health,” she said. “By doing these things and working with your primary care provider, you’re taking steps on the path towards a healthy life.”
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