Choosing a Primary Care Provider (PCP)

Reviewed Mar 24, 2017

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Summary

Your PCP's role is to:

  • Provide preventive care
  • Identify and treat common medical conditions
  • Make referrals to medical specialists when necessary

A primary care provider (PCP) is a health care worker who sees people that have common health problems. This person is most often a doctor, but may be a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner. Your PCP is often involved in your care for a long time. It is important to choose a provider you will work well with.

Your PCP's role is to:

  • Give preventive care and teach healthy lifestyle choices
  • Identify and treat common health conditions
  • Assess the urgency of your health problems and send you to the best place for that care
  • Make referrals to health care experts when needed

Primary care is most often given in an outpatient setting. But, if you are admitted to the hospital, your PCP may help or direct your care, depending on the events.

Having a PCP can give you a trusting, ongoing relationship with one health care worker over time. You can choose from many types:

  • Family practitioners: Doctors who have finished a family practice residency and are board certified or eligible. The care is for children and adults of all ages, as well as obstetrics and minor surgery.
  • Pediatricians: Doctors who have done a pediatric residency and are board certified or eligible. They give care to newborns, infants, children, and teens.
  • Internists: Doctors who have finished a residency in internal medicine and are board certified or eligible. They give care to adults of all ages for many health problems.
  • Obstetricians/gynecologists: Doctors who have done a residency and are board certified or eligible. They often serve as a PCP for women and often those of childbearing age.
  • Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA): They go through a different training and certification process than doctors. They may be your key contact in some practices.

Many insurance plans limit the providers you can choose from. Or they might give monetary incentives for you to select from a specific list. Make sure you know what your insurance covers before choosing.

How to choose a PCP

Think about the following:

  • Is the office staff friendly and helpful? Are they good about returning calls?
  • Do the hours work well with your schedule?
  • How easy is it to reach the provider? Do they use email?
  • Do you want a doctor whose communication style is friendly and warm, or more formal?
  • Do you want one who is focused on disease treatment or wellness and prevention?
  • Does the provider have a conservative or bold approach to treatment?
  • Does the provider order a lot of tests?
  • Does the provider refer to other experts often or rarely?
  • What do others say about them?
  • Does the provider invite you to be involved in your care? Do they view your patient-doctor relationship as a team?

You can get referrals from:

  • Friends, neighbors, or relatives
  • State-level health groups, nursing groups and groups for doctor assistants
  • Your dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, last provider, or other health worker
  • Advocacy groups can help you find the best provider for a specific long term condition or disability
  • Health plan websites, directories or customer service staff

One more option is to ask for an office visit to "interview" a potential doctor. It might be free, or you may be charged a co-pay or other small fee. Some practices like pediatric practice groups may have an open house where you have a chance to meet many of the doctors in that group.

If you do not currently have a PCP and a health care problem comes up, it is often best to seek non-emergency care from an urgent care center rather than a hospital emergency room. This will often save you time and money. In recent years, many emergency rooms have expanded their services to include reasonably priced urgent care at the ER or close by. Call first to find out.

Source: National Institutes of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001939.htm

Summary

Your PCP's role is to:

  • Provide preventive care
  • Identify and treat common medical conditions
  • Make referrals to medical specialists when necessary

A primary care provider (PCP) is a health care worker who sees people that have common health problems. This person is most often a doctor, but may be a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner. Your PCP is often involved in your care for a long time. It is important to choose a provider you will work well with.

Your PCP's role is to:

  • Give preventive care and teach healthy lifestyle choices
  • Identify and treat common health conditions
  • Assess the urgency of your health problems and send you to the best place for that care
  • Make referrals to health care experts when needed

Primary care is most often given in an outpatient setting. But, if you are admitted to the hospital, your PCP may help or direct your care, depending on the events.

Having a PCP can give you a trusting, ongoing relationship with one health care worker over time. You can choose from many types:

  • Family practitioners: Doctors who have finished a family practice residency and are board certified or eligible. The care is for children and adults of all ages, as well as obstetrics and minor surgery.
  • Pediatricians: Doctors who have done a pediatric residency and are board certified or eligible. They give care to newborns, infants, children, and teens.
  • Internists: Doctors who have finished a residency in internal medicine and are board certified or eligible. They give care to adults of all ages for many health problems.
  • Obstetricians/gynecologists: Doctors who have done a residency and are board certified or eligible. They often serve as a PCP for women and often those of childbearing age.
  • Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA): They go through a different training and certification process than doctors. They may be your key contact in some practices.

Many insurance plans limit the providers you can choose from. Or they might give monetary incentives for you to select from a specific list. Make sure you know what your insurance covers before choosing.

How to choose a PCP

Think about the following:

  • Is the office staff friendly and helpful? Are they good about returning calls?
  • Do the hours work well with your schedule?
  • How easy is it to reach the provider? Do they use email?
  • Do you want a doctor whose communication style is friendly and warm, or more formal?
  • Do you want one who is focused on disease treatment or wellness and prevention?
  • Does the provider have a conservative or bold approach to treatment?
  • Does the provider order a lot of tests?
  • Does the provider refer to other experts often or rarely?
  • What do others say about them?
  • Does the provider invite you to be involved in your care? Do they view your patient-doctor relationship as a team?

You can get referrals from:

  • Friends, neighbors, or relatives
  • State-level health groups, nursing groups and groups for doctor assistants
  • Your dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, last provider, or other health worker
  • Advocacy groups can help you find the best provider for a specific long term condition or disability
  • Health plan websites, directories or customer service staff

One more option is to ask for an office visit to "interview" a potential doctor. It might be free, or you may be charged a co-pay or other small fee. Some practices like pediatric practice groups may have an open house where you have a chance to meet many of the doctors in that group.

If you do not currently have a PCP and a health care problem comes up, it is often best to seek non-emergency care from an urgent care center rather than a hospital emergency room. This will often save you time and money. In recent years, many emergency rooms have expanded their services to include reasonably priced urgent care at the ER or close by. Call first to find out.

Source: National Institutes of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001939.htm

Summary

Your PCP's role is to:

  • Provide preventive care
  • Identify and treat common medical conditions
  • Make referrals to medical specialists when necessary

A primary care provider (PCP) is a health care worker who sees people that have common health problems. This person is most often a doctor, but may be a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner. Your PCP is often involved in your care for a long time. It is important to choose a provider you will work well with.

Your PCP's role is to:

  • Give preventive care and teach healthy lifestyle choices
  • Identify and treat common health conditions
  • Assess the urgency of your health problems and send you to the best place for that care
  • Make referrals to health care experts when needed

Primary care is most often given in an outpatient setting. But, if you are admitted to the hospital, your PCP may help or direct your care, depending on the events.

Having a PCP can give you a trusting, ongoing relationship with one health care worker over time. You can choose from many types:

  • Family practitioners: Doctors who have finished a family practice residency and are board certified or eligible. The care is for children and adults of all ages, as well as obstetrics and minor surgery.
  • Pediatricians: Doctors who have done a pediatric residency and are board certified or eligible. They give care to newborns, infants, children, and teens.
  • Internists: Doctors who have finished a residency in internal medicine and are board certified or eligible. They give care to adults of all ages for many health problems.
  • Obstetricians/gynecologists: Doctors who have done a residency and are board certified or eligible. They often serve as a PCP for women and often those of childbearing age.
  • Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA): They go through a different training and certification process than doctors. They may be your key contact in some practices.

Many insurance plans limit the providers you can choose from. Or they might give monetary incentives for you to select from a specific list. Make sure you know what your insurance covers before choosing.

How to choose a PCP

Think about the following:

  • Is the office staff friendly and helpful? Are they good about returning calls?
  • Do the hours work well with your schedule?
  • How easy is it to reach the provider? Do they use email?
  • Do you want a doctor whose communication style is friendly and warm, or more formal?
  • Do you want one who is focused on disease treatment or wellness and prevention?
  • Does the provider have a conservative or bold approach to treatment?
  • Does the provider order a lot of tests?
  • Does the provider refer to other experts often or rarely?
  • What do others say about them?
  • Does the provider invite you to be involved in your care? Do they view your patient-doctor relationship as a team?

You can get referrals from:

  • Friends, neighbors, or relatives
  • State-level health groups, nursing groups and groups for doctor assistants
  • Your dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, last provider, or other health worker
  • Advocacy groups can help you find the best provider for a specific long term condition or disability
  • Health plan websites, directories or customer service staff

One more option is to ask for an office visit to "interview" a potential doctor. It might be free, or you may be charged a co-pay or other small fee. Some practices like pediatric practice groups may have an open house where you have a chance to meet many of the doctors in that group.

If you do not currently have a PCP and a health care problem comes up, it is often best to seek non-emergency care from an urgent care center rather than a hospital emergency room. This will often save you time and money. In recent years, many emergency rooms have expanded their services to include reasonably priced urgent care at the ER or close by. Call first to find out.

Source: National Institutes of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001939.htm

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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