How to find a primary care provider

Nov. 18, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by Sanford Health.

Even though we’re currently in a pandemic, you shouldn’t put your overall health on hold.

Getting started

Throughout the pandemic, a common question Sanford Health has been asked is “What if I don’t have a doctor? Where do I start?”

Sarah Prenger is the senior executive director of primary care and behavioral health at Sanford Health. She encourages everyone, regardless of age, to have a primary care doctor, someone you are able to establish and maintain a trusting relationship with. If you don’t have a primary care provider, she said a good place to start is the “Find a Doctor” tab on Sanford Health’s website.

This is a great option to get to know each Sanford Health doctor, and find one who meets your needs, someone geographically close to you, who has clinic hours that fit your lifestyle and who you’d feel most comfortable with.

“You want a doctor that you can connect with, someone who has the same sort of values you have,” Prenger said. “On, you can often find information about doctor’s ideas of care, personal interests and even comments from actual patients about their experiences with that particular doctor. The star ratings even show how past patients ranked the doctor in certain areas of care such as listening and taking time with you.”

Meeting needs

One of the main reasons it’s important to have a primary care provider is because it’s easier for one person to help a patient. By having just one provider, Prenger said a patient can have more confidence knowing their needs will be met, whatever they are, and all facets of their health with be considered holistically.

“There are so many cool things about primary care — it’s sometimes referred to as your medical home. A primary care provider will manage everything and get to know you and your family over a long period of time.

“Part of knowing you and caring for you is making sure that you get the right care from the right provider. Your primary care provider will connect you to all of our specialties internally if or when needed.”

Prenger said primary care can include family medicine, internal medicine, general pediatrics and OB/GYN.

She adds that even if you are healthy, you still need a primary care provider to keep you healthy.

“Make sure all of your preventative screenings like cancer and behavioral health screenings and immunizations against preventable disease are all up to date,” Prenger said.

“You may have a broken ankle today, but you may also have diabetes or depression or a family history of X, Y or Z. A primary care provider will see and know the entire picture.”

Building trust

Going to a singular provider can be of benefit for not only what kind of health concern you have but also when you have it.

Seeing just one person builds trust and a relationship.

In seeking out help for behavioral or mental health, Prenger said she’d “always start with my primary care office.”

“In the Sanford footprint, we have about 50 integrated mental health therapists in our primary care offices. The therapists will partner with your doctor to get you the help you need and deserve.

“The therapist can access triage, provide whatever acute care is needed in the moment and also connect you with the behavioral health services you need,” she said.

Scheduling that first appointment

In scheduling an appointment to get to know your new doctor, Prenger said the best way to meet your doctor is in person with an office visit.

“You’ll want to schedule an office visit and say it’s to establish care. That’s really the time to get to know the provider, and the provider to get to know you,” she said.

Bring a list of medications, medical history, family history, insurance information, concerns, goals and questions to the visit.

“Your personal goals are important! Maybe you want to run a 5K, maybe you want to walk your daughter down the aisle, maybe you want to stop smoking. Your primary care doctor and their team can help you reach those goals,” she said.

To schedule an appointment, a prospective patient can visit Sanford Health’s website or call the clinic where the provider practices.

“In the time we’re in, it’s more important than ever to have a doctor or primary care provider. Sanford has implemented many safety precautions to keep people as safe as possible from COVID-19 while they are in our facilities. It’s far riskier to stay away than to come in,” Prenger said.

“Don’t ignore your health. Breast cancer, heart attacks, influenza — they don’t take a break just because COVID is here.”

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How to find a primary care provider

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