While an undergrad at Florida State University, Heather Applewhite, MD, would go to the on-campus health center like other college students when she was sick.
She didn’t have a primary care physician, but that soon changed. Her professors in medical school at the University of Florida College of Medicine constantly stressed the importance of preventive care and having a personal doctor versus going to the ER or urgent care.
Now as a family physician at Baptist Primary Care’s Neptune Beach office, she encourages “millennials” like herself to get established with a primary care physician.
Dr. Applewhite said, “Having a primary care physician gives me peace of mind knowing I’m staying on top of my screenings and knowing I’m doing what I can to make sure my health is as good as it can be,” Dr. Applewhite said. “No matter what your age, you need to think about your health throughout your life.”
Statistics show that about 28 percent of U.S. men and 17 percent of women don’t have a personal doctor or health care provider, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But recent studies have found that millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – are the U.S. largest generation, numbering 83 million. And they– are almost twice as likely as any other age groups to not have a primary care provider. Consider that a July national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had no primary care provider, compared with 28 percent of adults ages 30 to 49, 18 percent of adults between 50 and 64, and 12 percent ages 65 and older.
“There appears to be a trend in general among people in their 20s and 30s to brush off their health. But that is actually the perfect time to start thinking about your health, as well as risk factors that may run in your family,” Dr. Applewhite said.
Take control of your health earlier rather than later she added, and before your 40s when there is a need for a number of additional screenings.
Good access to primary care results in more timely care, better preventive care, avoiding unnecessary care, improved costs and lower mortality, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
“To me, the biggest advantage to having a primary care physician is establishing a relationship with someone who you feel you can be open and honest with and they can be open and honest with you and give you the best advice about your care,” Dr. Applewhite said.
3 more benefits to having a primary care physician
1. Knowing your history. Primary care physicians see you on at least an annual basis, know your medical history, and can help you meet your wellness goals. “If you’re not seeing the same provider, in some cases serious conditions may be missed because you don’t have the continuity of someone looking at the frequency of your symptoms and your whole history,” Dr. Applewhite said. “You could end up with more serious problems and complications in the long run.”
2. Providing preventive care and health assessments. A primary care physician can help you maintain your health and monitor your health over time. They provide you with up-to-date information and screenings, catch potential health issues early on, and help prevent more serious issues from occurring that could require an emergency room visit. Annual screenings assess your health risks and family history for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Health assessments also look at your diet, smoking habits and alcohol intake, as well as sexual health risks and emotional and psychological stressors, to name a few.
3. Timely referral to specialists. Primary care physicians have relationships with specialists and can get patients into a specialist in a timely manner and ones who are highly recommended
When it comes to selecting a primary care physician, Dr. Applewhite suggests checking with your insurance to see which primary care physicians are in-network to ensure the best cost savings. You may also want to look at the provider’s background and profile, which may provide insight into their character, interests and experience.
With more than 50 offices, Baptist Primary Care has Northeast Florida's largest network of primary care doctors dedicated to helping you stay healthy. If you don’t have a primary care provider, visit baptistjax.com/request or call 904.202.4YOU to find a doctor near you.