Hint: They know their stuff
Maintaining good health can be complicated. Many of us turn to the internet when we’re not feeling well, but searching symptoms online can cause anxiety or lead to ineffective treatment.
Plus, when every search yields dozens of results that contradict one another, it can feel like there are just too many options. Instead, it’s nice to have a “home base,” or trusted doctor that knows your family and can make the best recommendations. This is where a family doctor comes in.
“Family doctors are for more than just your annual check-up,” says Dr. Christian Shuman, a family physician at Geisinger's Pottsville clinic. “They can help with chronic conditions and act as a trusted resource the whole family can turn to.”
Here are four reasons you should build a relationship with your family doctor.
- Tracking your health: Establishing a relationship with your family doctor from a young age, or over generations, gives them a lot to work with. Family and personal history is extremely valuable when tracking changes in health.
“If your family doctor has treated heart conditions in your parents, or managed your older sibling’s diabetes, they will be looking for those early warning signs,” says Dr. Shuman. “This goes a long way toward prevention and early detection.”
And even though the days of house-calls are behind us, a family doctor is part of your community. They can identify local issues like allergens or common infections that are specific to your area.
- More than the basics: Your family doctor’s arsenal reaches far beyond height, weight and blood pressure. Though annual check-ups are a valuable part of a healthy lifestyle, your family doctor is also a first point of defense when you’re injured or sick.
“A family doctor can treat most common infections, help manage chronic illnesses, assist with pregnancy and even perform minor surgical procedures,” notes Dr. Shuman. You can save a trip to urgent care with a visit to the family doctor, often at a lower cost.
- Know where to go: On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a condition that’s out of your family doctor’s reach, they can provide recommendations for next steps.
They may refer you to a specialist or recommend you seek treatment at urgent care or a hospital. You can trust that your family doctor knows all of the nearby providers and will send you in the right direction.
“Referrals are for more than just the insurance company,” says Dr. Shuman. “They let you know what to expect, establish a rapport between patient and specialist and ensure that you’re seeing the right provider for your needs.”
- An educational resource: With hundreds of studies in the news and questions from inquisitive children, it often feels like there’s no end to the health questions running through your mind. But, thanks to their wide variety of patient ages and medical histories, family doctors have the answers.
These answers are especially valuable to young people.
“If your teen is comfortable with their family doctor, they’re more likely to speak openly about health questions they might not want to discuss at home.”
Christian Shuman, MD, is a primary care physician at Geisinger's Pottsville clinic. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Shuman or another primary care physician, please call 570-624-4444 or visit geisinger.org.