Your PCP is your Go to/Point person, your Healthcare Coordinator
A primary care provider (PCP) is your Go-To person for your health and ongoing care. This should be the person you go to for your medical evaluations and follow-ups. Your PCP is the person that you see for annual exams, sick visits, and preoperative evaluations.
Think of your PCP as the ringleader of your healthcare, managing and coordinating all of your healthcare needs.
If you need a referral to a specialist, your PCP will be the one to guide you and help schedule/authorize your appointments with them. You will often be referred to someone they know and with whom they have a collaborative relationship, making it easier/faster to get an appointment.
Your PCP is usually a physician who has done residency training ( 3 years) in Family Practice (specialized in adults and children) or Internal Medicine (specialized in adult medicine), a Family Practice Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant. Each uses evidence-based medicine practices to keep you up to date on medical guidelines.
An urgent care visit for a specific complaint should NOT replace your PCP appointments. Urgent care visits should be saved just for ‘urgent care’ as you need for urgent situations when your PCP may be unavailable. It is not common to have routine screening tests or a comprehensive check up at an urgent care visit.
Someone who has your back
The goal is to have your PCP and their office be the most knowledgeable about your health besides you. They will keep up to date records on your health and let you know when you are due for certain screenings as well as advise/guide you in the case of any medical illness. Your PCP should be someone who has your best interest at heart.
In the case that you are in the hospital, the hospitals doctors and staff rely on records and information about you from your PCP. They can often times provide much needed background about you that helps in diagnosis and managing your care effectively. It may be easy for you to forget an important detail that you may not even realize is important.
Guidance and recommendations
You should consider your PCP as someone within your trusted personal network, your healthcare advocate, as well as an information resource. They can help educate you about your health and prevent chronic illnesses down the line.
Overall better health
Having an established PCP increases the likelihood that you’ll receive a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. It also allows for continuity of care. Continuity of care means that you establish a relationship with a health care provider and supplement that relationship year after year. This allows your PCP to get to know you and your health goals. They can help monitor and manage your overall progress. Following with the same provider and keeping that continuity allows benefits that have been proven to add up to better health and healthcare.
You also have the advantage of getting help more quickly should you get sick in the future. Since your PCP knows you and has gotten to know your health over time, they are additionally more likely to recognize changes or signs that need further investigation and can also alleviate anxiety over issues that may not warrant your worry.
If you are in the hospital, some PCPs may call the doctors periodically or visit you in the hospital to make sure the situation is under control and being managed properly. When you leave a hospital, your PCP will often get a summary of your visit from the team managing your care. The PCP can also request this summary in case they are not in the same network or are out of state.
How to choose a PCP?
When choosing a PCP, a few questions you may want to ask:
- Do they accept your insurance plan?
- Are they easily accessible/convenient?
- Appointments; How soon will you be able to be seen if urgent? What are usual wait times?
- Are routine imaging studies/lab work done in the office or at another facility?
- Which hospital are they associated with?
You may even want to set up an introductory appointment/phone call to see if you are a good fit.
Avoid making a decision based on online reviews, these ratings rarely represent a doctor’s skill and don’t tend to offer much accuracy. Often times, the most likely person to leave a review are the ones who are the most upset and sometimes the most satisfied, thus skewing the results.
The best way to find your PCP is to ASK around! Ask you friends, loved ones and colleagues, as they will have the best advice based on their experience. If you are new in an area, asking new people you meet will be your best guide. People tend to be happy to share information of the folks they’ve had good personal experiences with. Also, if you have any, ask a local doctor friend, as they’ll likely have the lowdown of the community.
The best PCP is someone who is your guide but also in some ways similar to your healthcare best friend. A friend who can be frank and honest, and tell you what you need to hear when you don’t want to hear it. A friend who can give you advice and feedback. A friend who will also pat you on the back with good news and successes.
While the information on the Site was prepared to provide accurate information regarding topics related to general and specific health issues, the information contained in the Site is made available with the express understanding that neither Dr. Rupie or the other experts on the Site, nor the Site itself, nor members of the Site are dispensing medical advice and do not intend any of this information to be used for self diagnosis or treatment. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH AND BEFORE STARTING OR STOPPING ANY TREATMENT OR ACTING UPON INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THE SITE, YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR OWN PHYSICIAN OR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER.