A primary care provider, also known as a PCP, is more than your point of contact in the medical system. This type of medical professional helps you manage your general health and screen for diseases. That’s why choosing the right PCP is an important decision.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when making this choice.
The benefits of a PCP
Whether or not your insurance requires you to select a primary care provider, it’s a good idea to have one. As you establish a relationship with them, they get to know you and what’s normal for your body. They can do tests that help find diseases you might have but not know about yet. Even better, they often can treat your entire family. So, you have a single place to go for your medical needs.
Check your insurance
In most cases, you need a primary care physician who participates in your health care plan. When you use any PCP that’s out of your plan’s network, you typically pay more for the services. A great first step is to check out a database of PCPs from your insurance company. This helps you avoid spending hours searching for someone only to find out they’re not approved.
If the insurance company has a large list of names, you can narrow the list by getting referrals from people you know. Save time by asking your colleagues who they recommend if you all have the same insurance plan. You can ask family and friends, too.
Pick a type
Most PCPS are internists, family medicine practitioners or general practice doctors. It helps to understand the differences between them.
Internists are experts at diagnosing, treating and preventing illnesses in adults. Family medicine practitioners sees patients from all age groups. General practice doctors are often doctors of osteopathic medicine. This means they get more training on treating muscle and skeletal systems.
PCPs aren’t specialists. However, they may focus on certain conditions or age groups in their practice. For example, you’ll find internists who specialize in diabetes or heart conditions. If you have a long-term medical condition, look for someone who has experience with the disease or the body systems it affects.
Consider the planning process
If you don’t work close to home, you may want to choose a primary care provider closer to the office so you can schedule appointments before or after work. Otherwise, you may need to take time off to fit in your visits. On the other hand, if you’re choosing a PCP for the whole family, you may want someone closer to home so it’s convenient for everyone.
Another important consideration is language. If English is not your first language, you may feel more comfortable with a PCP who also speaks your native language. Also ask about translation services. Bon Secours practices have services for more than 80 languages, with some in-person translators available.
If you are interested in any telehealth services, make sure their office offers them.
Schedule an appointment
Next you’ll ask for an appointment with your new primary care physician. If you cannot meet with them in person due to COVID-19, talk with them via a phone call or video chat.
Pay attention to how you feel over time. How well did the PCP listen to you? Did they answer your questions, or did they dismiss your concerns? Did you feel rushed during your discussion? You should feel like you can talk openly with your PCP. It’s sometimes embarrassing to discuss certain medical conditions and concerns. But avoiding that can lead to problems down the road.
The search for a primary care physician doesn’t have to be time-consuming. We are here to help. Our simple to use online tools make it easy to start your search for a primary care provider.