One of the most important things you can do to take care of your health might be one of the least obvious: get a family doctor.

If you’re a relatively healthy person, having a family doctor (often referred to as a primary care physician in medical jargon) might be far down on life’s to-do list. You could think it’s easier to simply wait until you have a medical issue and then see a doctor at a hospital or urgent care center.

Family Doctors are Key to Preventive Care

Unlike an urgent care or emergency room, a family doctor can help you with far more than just reactive care to medical crises. A family doctor focuses on preventive care too, offering health and wellness guidance that, if followed, can help lower your risk of illness.

“Having a family doctor that you see periodically – such as for your annual physical – helps build a level of comfort and trust over time that can benefit your long-term health and wellness,” said Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, Chief Medical Officer at Capital Blue Cross.

“Having a family doctor that you see periodically helps build a level of comfort and trust over time that can benefit your long-term health and wellness."
— Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, Chief Medical Office at Capital Blue Cross

“When you have a candid rapport with your doctor, it often makes it easier for both of you to monitor any existing health issues and keep an eye out for possible emerging issues,” he explained.

A family doctor can help:

  •  Manage chronic conditions. If you have an ongoing health issue like asthma, diabetes, or a heart condition, checking in regularly with a family doctor can serve as an early warning system. A doctor who knows your health history can help you stay on track with routine tests and monitor how your condition is impacting your health over time.

  • Direct you to the right care. If you need to see a specialist – such as a cardiologist, dermatologist, or physical therapist – your family doctor can be a good place to start. They typically can assess your health needs and give you a referral to the right specialist for your specific needs.

  • Take charge of your health. If you are looking to lose weight, pick up the pace on your exercise routine, change medications, or make other lifestyle changes that can affect your health, a doctor who knows your health history can give you guidance on how to make changes safely.

  • Reduce your healthcare costs. Research shows people who regularly check in with a primary care physician have fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations – two of the most expensive healthcare outcomes.

Finding the Right Doctor for You

Capital Blue Cross helps members connect with a family doctor through its online MyCare Finder. This easy-to-use tool can search for in-network doctors and medical facilities by specialty or ZIP Code, so you can find the doctor you need that’s most convenient to where you live or work.

If you don’t have a family doctor, Dr. Wigginton suggests consulting with trusted friends or family who might have guidance on doctors they like who might suit your personal preferences.

And once you have a family doctor, make sure you both are comfortable talking candidly about your care.

“Openness and honesty about your health is crucial to getting the greatest benefit from a family doctor,” Dr. Wigginton said. “It’s important for you to feel comfortable discussing any health issues, and equally important for your doctor to discuss any concerns they might have about your well-being.”