Advocate Sherman physician on the value of establishing a primary care doctor

Primary care physicians are your go-to partners in overall health and well-being. Not only are they a resource for preventive care, but they can also diagnose and treat various medical conditions.

A study found the percentage of Americans with a primary care doctor is declining.

Why the drop? It could be that some don't know why they need primary care or what they should talk about with their doctor.

"It's important to have a primary care doctor because they personally know you and your medical history over the course of time," says Dr. Patricia Jaimes-Huerta, a family medicine physician at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. "This longtime relationship enables a more personalized approach to care."

During preventive visits, you should ask your doctor about any health risk factors you have based on medical and family history.

If your parent or close relative has a medical condition, it can put you at a higher risk, explains Dr. Jaimes-Huerta. Your doctor may recommend appropriate screenings and lifestyle changes to help reduce your risk.

Additionally, be prepared to share your nutrition habits, exercise routine, sleep patterns and any stressors you may have. This information paints a picture of your general health so your doctor can make recommendations to help set you up for success.

"As primary care doctors, we want to partner with patients to help them set short-term and long-term goals for their health," shares Dr. Jaimes-Huerta.

If your appointment is related to an existing chronic condition, such as diabetes, talk to your doctor about your treatment plan and any concerns you have.

"It's crucial to know if a patient is experiencing side effects, having trouble affording their medication, or if their work hours aren't conducive to taking their medications appropriately," says Dr. Jaimes-Huerta. "Once we have this information, we can make a plan to address these barriers."

In a patient-provider relationship, honesty is the best policy.

Dr. Jaimes-Huerta emphasizes the importance of a relationship built on trust. The more honest you are about your health, the more informed care your primary care doctor can provide.

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