Tag Archives: primary care

Why You Need a Checkup (Even If You Feel Fine)

By: Manuel Skow, P.A.

If you feel okay, you don’t need to see the doctor, right?

Wrong. An annual checkup with your primary care doctor should be part of your regular health routine, just like exercise. Here are five good reasons to schedule a checkup, even if you feel fine.

1. Staying healthy

Keeping up to date with vaccinations and screenings is basic to good health. Vaccinations can prevent some serious diseases, such as measles, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, German measles, mumps, tetanus, rotavirus, the flu and even cervical cancer. And screening tests are done to detect potential diseases in people who do not have any symptoms, leading to the early identification of serious conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cancer. Early detection is important because it provides the best opportunity for a cure.

2. Knowing your numbers

Do you know your numbers? They include:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol level
  • Blood sugar level
  • Body mass index

High blood pressure and blood sugar, and unhealthy weight and cholesterol, greatly increase your risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.  Also, if you have prediabetes or diabetes, you must carefully monitor your number to control the disease and improve the quality of your health.

Your doctor can help you learn your numbers and take steps to keep them in a healthy range.

3. Creating a medical record

Annual visits to the doctor are a chance to update your personal medical record. This record helps your doctor keep tabs on your health and monitor any issues you have.  Also, if you are hospitalized in an emergency, having access to your medical records can reduce unnecessary testing, prevent allergic reactions, and help you get the best care possible.

4. Building a doctor-patient relationship

This relationship doesn’t just happen. It takes several visits for your doctor to really understand you, and for you to feel comfortable with your doctor. A good relationship is important because it can affect any treatment you receive, such as whether you can take certain medications.

5. Low-cost prevention

Most health insurance covers an annual checkup, including lab tests. There may be a small co-pay, but this is usually minimal. For one low fee, your doctor can assess your health, discuss your needs and concerns, and help you head off potentially serious health issues.

Has it been more than a year since your last checkup? Call your MPCP office today to set one up and get started on your healthier future.


Manuel Skow, PAManuel Skow, Physician Assistant, received his Master of Science/Physician Assistant degree from St. Francis University, and completed his Physician Assistant Preceptorships in Primary Care at the U. S. Naval Academy Brigade Clinic and Internal Medicine/Cardiology at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He sees patients in MPCP’s Glen Burnie office.

Making the Most of Your Doctor Visit

A Q&A with Rafeena Bacchus, M.D.

Most of the time, your primary care physician is your first contact for health care. When you make an appointment, knowing how to prepare and what to expect will help you get the most out of your visit.

Q: What kind of appointments can I get at MPCP?
A: We offer two types of appointments:

  • A problem visit addresses a new problem or revisits an old one.
  • A physical examination is a preventative visit to review your history, examine your body from head to toe, check appropriate blood work (like blood sugar and cholesterol), administer age-appropriate immunizations, and offer age-appropriate screening referrals (like mammograms and colonoscopies).

Making the right kind of appointment will ensure that your doctor can effectively address your health needs.

Q: Can I do anything to get ready for my appointment?
A: There are several steps you can take ahead of time to make sure your appointment runs smoothly:

  • Be very clear about what you need when you make your appointment. This allows your doctor to properly prepare for your visit. For example, if you have abdominal pain, your provider can offer you a drape so you can undress from the waist down for an exam.
  • Know what referrals you need.
  • Take a few minutes to write down notes and questions to make sure all of your concerns get addressed.
  • If your provider asked you to monitor your blood sugar or blood pressure, remember to bring those logs in with you.
  • If you want to discuss tests ordered by a provider outside of MPCP, don’t assume that we have received these records, even if you asked for them to be sent. Track them down and bring them with you. If you need help tracking down records, call your provider’s assistant a day or two prior to your appointment to alert MPCP to this request.

Asking for copies of test results when you are seen elsewhere is always a good idea. It facilitates your bringing them to your provider for discussion and helps eliminate duplicate testing. Feel free to ask for the records and test results – they belong to you.

Q: When should I arrive for my MPCP appointment?
A: Come 10-15 minutes early to complete paperwork, use the bathroom and gather your thoughts. Turn off your cellphone. This will ensure your entire appointment is used for face-to-face time with your doctor.

Q: How long will my appointment last?

A: Appointment lengths vary from 10 minutes for simple problems to 30 minutes for physical examinations or complex problems.

While your provider would like to be able to address every concern you have, this may not be possible due to time limits. You may need more than one visit or visit type to address all of your concerns.

Q: Sometimes my visit is delayed. Why is that?

A. The most common reasons your doctor might be running late for your appointment are patient tardiness, complicated problems and emergencies. Feel free to ask the check-in staff if your provider is running on time.

Q. What does my doctor need to know about my medications?

A: Your doctor will need to know 1) what medications you take, 2) why you take them, 3) the dose for each one, and 4) how often you take them. We encourage all patients to create a list of all medications, supplements, and vitamins you take. Include any drugs a specialist or urgent care center added to your regimen. Some patients bring the actual pill bottles to avoid confusion.

Your doctor can print a list at checkout of all the active medications we are aware of you taking. Once your provider has a full picture of what you take, they can help you avoid drug-drug interactions or be alert to medication-induced illness.

Q. Is it okay to ask questions?
A. It’s your doctor’s job to make sure you understand and follow through on care, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If you don’t understand what your doctor tells you, say so. Repeat back what you hear to confirm you have it right. Take notes. If you still aren’t clear after you leave the appointment, call back and ask for clarification.

Q: What health records should I keep?
A. It’s a good idea to keep a folder with copies of these health records:

  • Recent test results
  • Your current medication list
  • Your insurer’s list of covered medications
  • A list of your providers with contact information
  • Pending referrals
  • Lists of your questions
  • Blood sugar or blood pressure diaries
  • Vaccine dates

Take notes at your office visits to help you remember important points about your care, and keep them in your folder so you can review them when necessary. Bring your folder on any visit to a healthcare provider, an urgent care center or hospital to help reduce gaps in your care.

Q: What happens after my appointment?

A: MPCP uses its online Patient Portal to communicate test results, or you doctor may call you. But if you don’t get test results in a timely fashion, be sure to ask for them.

Take prescribed medication as directed, and talk to your provider if you have side effects and need to make adjustments. If your doctor schedules a follow-up appointment, be sure to keep it so your doctor can check on your progress and make any needed changes to your care.


Dr. Rafeena Bacchus sees patients at MPCP’s Columbia office. She received her medical degree from SUNY at the Buffalo School of Medicine and completed her residency program in Internal Medicine at the University of Maryland. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

What To Do? Emergency Department vs. Urgent Care vs. Your Doctor’s Office

By: Jamie Harms, M.D.

Having an illness or injury often results in a good deal of anxiety and worry. You want medical attention and relief from your symptoms as quickly as possible. But where should you go to get the best, most appropriate and cost-effective care? The following are the most widely used treatment options and suggestions about when each might be best suited to meet your particular medical needs.

The emergency department:  Most emergency departments are part of hospitals, although there are free-standing emergency departments in Bowie and Queenstown. The ED is designed and equipped to handle serious or life-threatening emergencies.  It is always open, including nights, weekends and holidays. Patients are seen according to how sick or injured they are.   The most serious cases jump to the front of the line, even if they arrive later than everyone else.  Physicians in the ED are trained to look for life-threatening conditions, and the tests you will receive in the ED will help them decide if you have any of these.

The Emergency Department is the right place to go if you have a serious or potentially life-threatening illness or injury:  chest pain, sudden weakness on one side of your body, a new seizure, severe headache, persistent heavy bleeding, poisoning, or a large broken bone.

The Emergency Department is probably not the right place to go if you have a milder illness or a longstanding issue.  You are likely to wait longer for treatment. The Emergency Department doctors do not have access to your medical records.  Your visit will be much more expensive-as much as 4-6 times as expensive! Remember, they have to keep all that life-saving equipment available all the time. That’s great if you need it, but it’s just an extra charge if you don’t.

Urgent care centers:  There are lots of these in our area.  They often have extended hours, including evenings and some weekend hours.  They are designed and equipped to handle medical problems that need attention the same day, but are not life-threatening.  Patients are usually seen in the order they arrive, so your wait will depend on how many other people go to the Urgent Care Center at the same time you do.  Many Urgent Care Centers have X-ray and blood testing equipment.

An Urgent Care Center is the right place to go if you have a new illness or injury that occurs when your doctor’s office is closed: sprains and strains, painful urination, ear pain, severe cough or wheezing.

An Urgent Care Center is probably not the right place to go if your doctor’s office is open or if you have a serious or life-threatening condition. A visit to an Urgent Care Center is more expensive than a visit for the same condition at your doctor’s office. The provider in the Urgent Care Center does not know you and will not have access to your medical records. Urgent Care Centers are not equipped with life-saving equipment or providers trained to treat life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

Your doctor’s office:  No one knows you like your own doctor. Your doctor is equipped to treat many illnesses and injuries, and can arrange any testing you may need. Your primary care doctor has your medical records and knows your medical history. Patients are seen by appointment. Maryland Primary Care Physician offices reserve appointments for patients who need same-day treatment. Many MPCP offices have evening and/or Saturday hours for your convenience.  Call or check our website, mpcp.com, for a list of hours at your doctor’s office.

Your doctor’s is the right place to go if you have a new problem, such as sinus pain, ear pain or flu, cuts or other wounds, sprains or strains, cough, or a flare up of an old problem, such as back pain or migraine headache, or an ongoing problem that may require more testing or treatment, such as persistent stomach problems or joint issues.  You will pay the lowest copay at your primary care doctor’s office, and most times, you will be able to get an appointment the same day you call.

Your doctor’s office is the wrong place to go if you have a serious or life-threatening condition. If you need care in the next hour, go to the Emergency Department.

Don’t forget: Good communication is important to make sure you get good care. If you’re not sure what to do, call your primary care provider. Even when the office is closed, there is always someone on call who can direct you to the care you need. If you ever need to go to the Emergency Department or an Urgent Care center, take a list of all your medications and allergies with you. Let the staff know who your primary care provider is, and schedule a follow up appointment if needed.

Primary care quicker, less costly than the ER

A study by a New York health insurer claims 90% of conditions commonly seen in emergency rooms ─ like sinus infections, sprains and sore throats  – could be treated faster and at a lower cost elsewhere. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield reports that in 2013 emergency room visits in the state for these conditions were nearly 8 times more expensive than a primary care office, 3.5 times higher than an urgent care center, and 15 times costlier than telemedicine. Patients in ERs also had the longest wait times for treatment. The report concludes: “the best method of care for nearly all of these cases is for patients to see their primary care doctors.”