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Do I have to get a primary care doctor?

Matthew M. Schellenberg, DO
Family Medicine
It's important to have a primary care doctor for a few reasons. One would be for health maintenance and preventative medicine. They know what you as an individual need for screening tests, for lifestyle changes and for overall health to prevent serious illness.

Another reason it's important to have a primary care doctor is to help you navigate through the healthcare world. There are a lot of specialists and tests that might be appropriate for certain illnesses that you might have. Your primary care doctor knows those tests and is aware of the specialists that are appropriate for the disease process or illness that you have, and can help arrange that.

Another reason a primary care doctor is important to have is they're accessible to you. No matter what time of day, or where you live, usually there is a primary care doctor on call, in your vicinity, that hopefully you've established a relationship with. You can call, ask questions, get in to be seen quickly and have prompt care for whatever problems you have.
Dr. John J. Connolly
Healthcare Insurance & Policy

Everyone needs a doctor, even when they are healthy, because a doctor not only manages and cures illness, but also, hopefully, helps prevent illness and promotes wellness. Having a regular relationship with your primary care doctor is important and can be critical in diagnosing potential issues. It is difficult for a doctor you are seeing for the first time to know your history, your body, your normal function and presentation, and your emotions to recognize differences that may indicate problems.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Nope (as long as you don’t have a managed care health plan). But, even if you don’t have a managed care health plan, you may have one even if you don’t call him or her that. Your primary care provider can be the doc that you see the most often for check-ups or treatment for simple problems like a sinus infection, even if he or she doesn’t have a plaque or pin that says “Jane’s Primary Care Provider.” That would be pretty cool, though!

However, if you do have a managed care plan, you typically are required to have a primary care provider to serve as the gatekeeper (ringleader, head honcho, personal guide) whose permission is typically required for you to see the next care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.