The importance of the primary care physician

The Southwestern Health Resources (SWHR) clinically integrated network is built around the critical role of the primary care physician (PCP). Strong relationships between PCPs and their patients are demonstrated to deliver better health outcomes and improvements in quality of life.

Recently, SWHR connected with three network physicians to hear firsthand about the importance of this relationship between patient and provider.


William Brian Byrd, MD, Texas Family Medicine in Fort Worth

“PCPs who know their patients over a longer period of time are familiar with important details, such as allergies to medications and style of communication,” says Dr. Byrd. “The data shows that people who regularly see their primary care provider are less likely to end up in the hospital or suffer a critical medical event such as a heart attack or stroke.”

Prevention is key to the role of the PCP and guiding patients to schedule cancer screenings and vaccinations is one way this central relationship can support longevity, by identifying issues early before they have a chance to escalate. By helping patients maintain a normal, average blood pressure or keeping blood sugar under control, PCPs can delay, or prevent altogether, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, or other chronic conditions that may require hospitalization.

PCPs provide value-based care by “keeping patients healthy and engaged in their lives,” Dr. Byrd says.

“SWHR assists our clinic of five providers by helping us identify patients who are due for screening exams,” says Dr. Byrd. “They help us communicate with patients who have been hospitalized so that they receive appropriate post-hospitalization care. In Fort Worth, the SWHR specialist network does an excellent job scheduling our patients and taking care of our patients at a specialist level.”


Son Giep, MD, Texas Health Plano

Dr. Giep says PCPs look at patients from a “big picture” perspective, not just one organ system. PCPs are able to provide continuity of care, which can improve patient outcomes and reduce patient costs.

When patients have specialists involved in their care, Dr. Giep says PCPs coordinate that care and “act as the ‘captain’ who has central/critical knowledge of the patient.”

Illustrating value-based care in action, recently, Dr. Giep saw a patient for back pain. Having built a relationship with the patient over time, he was able to notice subtle cues that prompted him to delve more deeply, using his knowledge and insight to achieve a correct diagnosis and address the patient’s needs, thereby avoiding the use of emergency care. “If the patient had gone to the emergency room (ER), it’s probable only the back pain would have been addressed,” he explains.

Dr. Giep sees the PCP as the “hub” for each patient’s care, with most physicians providing same-day availability for sick patients to help keep them out of the emergency room.


Shoaib Khalil, MD, Texas Health Cleburne

For Shoaib Khalil, MD, trust is the most important factor in a patient-PCP relationship. “Patients need someone to take the time and explain their health conditions and what to do,” he says. “When you are sincere and give a true, honest opinion, they comply. They need to see you are interested in taking care of them and saving their health.”

PCPs provide regular, close follow-ups, try to identify health challenges and discuss available options that suit a patient’s lifestyle. “It’s not easy to change one’s habits, but constant encouragement can make a huge difference,” he says.

Dr. Khalil credits SWHR with helping to identify gaps in patients’ healthcare. “SWHR is proactive in recognizing potential patient issues and areas I need to focus on.”


Data supports value of yearly PCP visit

Data demonstrates that a long-term relationship with a primary care provider keeps the patient healthier while lowering medical costs.1, 2 In fact, U.S. states with higher ratios of primary care physicians to population have delivered “better health outcomes, including lower rates of all causes of mortality,” even after controlling for sociodemographic measures such as education, income and lifestyle factors (obesity, smoking).3

One recent study demonstrated that a patient was more likely to receive preventative interventions when they visited their primary care physician regularly (≥ 1 primary care visit per year).4 The likelihood of preventative care increased:

  • 127% for vaccinations
  • 122% for colonoscopies
  • 75% for mammographies

If it’s been over a year since you visited your primary care provider, now may be a good time to make an appointment. Don’t have a primary care provider? You can find one here.



1Shi L. The impact of primary care: a focused review. Scientifica (Cairo). 2012;2012:432892. doi: 10.6064/2012/432892. Epub 2012 Dec 31. PMID: 24278694; PMCID: PMC3820521.

2Starfield B, Shi L, Macinko J. Contribution of primary care to health systems and health. Milbank Q. 2005;83(3):457-502. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2005.00409.x. PMID: 16202000; PMCID: PMC2690145.

3Shi L. The Relationship between Primary Care and Life Chances. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. 1992;3:321–35.

4Hostetter, J., Schwarz, N., Klug, M. et al. Primary care visits increase utilization of evidence-based preventative health measures. BMC Fam Pract 21, 151 (2020).

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