The diverse nature of primary care is what attracted Neilene Folks.
“It doesn’t lock you into one area of care,” Folks, a physician assistant at UCHealth Primary Care, told 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 usually 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,” Folks said. “We take the time to thoroughly educate our patients about their health and the needs that may arise.”
Many people see the same primary care provider for several years or even their entire lives. There are advantages to this.
“By developing relationships with patients, primary care providers know a patient’s medical history and a sense of trust can be developed,” Folks said. “When we link these elements to a patient’s new health problem, it allows us to provide comprehensive and effective care.”
Primary care is routine care
The saying “An ounce of prevention is better than a cure” holds true in the world of primary care.
“If we can prevent something or jump on it early, that’s always better than having to react,” Folks said. “This is where mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate screenings, skin checks and other screenings can keep us healthy.”
Many patients see a primary care provider every year for an exam. Annual exams, which are often referred to as an annual physical exam, include a range of components, including updating the patient’s medical history, taking vital signs and performing a head-to-toe examination. Reminders for preventive screenings can also be shared during these examinations.
“We take our cars for routine maintenance; we should do the same for ourselves,” Folks said. “Regular screenings can prevent something from developing into a more concerning health condition, and they can help you stay ahead of any health issues that may be lurking.”
Scope of care
Because of its broad scope, follow-up to a diagnosis can often be handled within the primary care setting.
“If a patient is diagnosed with diabetes, for example, we can often provide the necessary care and management,” Folks said. “The same is true for many heart conditions and orthopedic needs. If we reach the end of our field of knowledge and treatment, then we will refer to endocrinology, cardiac and vascular surgery, or orthopedics, respectively, or whatever specialist best suits the patient.
Primary care providers can diagnose and treat many health issues, including allergies, asthma, infections, high blood pressure, migraines, sprains and strains, wound management, and more.
Additionally, patients may have the option of receiving 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 issues.
General health recommendations
While seeking routine medical care and getting preventive screenings are part of healthy living, so are some daily practices.
Folks recommends that his patients exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and consume alcohol responsibly.
“These are some of the easiest ways to positively impact your health,” she said. “By doing these things and working with your primary care provider, you are on your way to a healthy life.”
Lindsey Reznicek is a communications strategist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and can be reached at [email protected]. Tori Flarity writes for UCHealth. She can be contacted at [email protected].