Finding the right primary care doctor is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Your primary care doctor is your medical advisor and educator; someone you can trust to help you make medical decisions. Moreover, your primary care doctor is oftentimes the first person and the best resource when you need medical advice.
Let’s dive into the role of the primary care doctor, why they’re so important, and how you can find the right one for you.
What is Primary Care?
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, primary care is the “provision of integrated, accessible health care services by physicians and their health care teams who are accountable for addressing a large majority of personal health care needs, developing a sustained partnership with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community.”
Simply put, they are your general, first stop, point of health care.
While specialized care focuses on a specific condition or issue with the patient such as eyes, hands, or feet, primary care looks at the patient as a whole.
Primary care services include:
- Basic wound care
- General health counseling
- Medical screenings for diabetes, cancer, and heart health
- Minor procedures
- Basic women’s healthcare
- Wellness visits and physical check ups
Generally speaking, your primary care team at large consists of a variety of healthcare experts. This team may include:
- Primary care physician (PCP)
- Nurse practitioners
- Physicians assistants
- Medical assistants
- Social worker
- Physical therapist
The leader of this team is your primary care physician. But what exactly is a primary care physician, and what do they do?
What Is a Primary Care Physician?
Simply put, a primary care physician is your first stop, go to resource for general healthcare. Like any other doctor, a primary care physician has full board certification as well as a medical degree.
Also known as PCPs, these medical professionals not only act as the first point of care for any general health concern you have but can also provide advice, resources, and refer you to specialists if necessary.
Primary care physicians have a deep and thorough understanding of your health history. Because of this, they are generally your best resource for health advice and will be the first person you visit when you have a medical problem.
There are five main types of primary care doctors:
- Internal medicine doctor (adults)
- Pediatrician (children)
- Family medicine doctor (all ages)
- Geriatricians (elderly)
- OB/GYN (women’s reproductive health)
Having a trusted primary care physician that you keep in regular contact with is a great way to improve your overall health, and avoid unpleasant health surprises.
What Does A Primary Care Physician Do?
Primary care physicians are highly experienced general practitioners. Because of this, they provide a wide variety of medical services.
Some of these services include:
- Regular check ups
- Preventative care
- Treatment for common illness like the flu
- Management of chronic conditions
- Lab orders
- Referrals to specialists
- General medical advice
The wide variety of these services are what make having a trusted primary care physician so important, especially if you have multiple health conditions. These doctors are your central medical hub and likely the healthcare professional that understands your individual health situation best.
While a primary care physician’s scope of practice is broad, some things they are not able to do are:
- Treat conditions requiring specialized care
- Perform surgeries or chemotherapy
- Conduct therapy sessions
It’s important to note that you don’t always have to be sick to see a primary care doctor.
In fact, primary care doctors can also help manage and keep track of things like your physicals, immunizations, behavioral health, and general health screenings. Think of your primary care physician is like the quarterback of your personal healthcare team.
So how do you find the right one?
How To Choose A Primary Care Physician?
To reiterate, choosing the right primary care physician is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Let’s go over some of the things to consider when choosing your primary care physician.
Your Health Insurance Network
Generally speaking, you will likely need to find a primary care doctor that is part of your health insurance network.
Even if your insurance plan allows you to see a PCP that is out of network, your out-of-pocket cost will likely be higher than finding an in-network physician.
Put simply, in-network and out of network just refer to whether the physician is contracted or has an agreement with your health insurance plan.
The best way to check this is to call your insurance or a prospective doctor and ask whether your visits will be covered.
If the answer is no and you still want to see a specific doctor, you can always ask what the out-of-pocket cost for an office visit will be without insurance.
Convenience and Accessibility
The next thing you want to look for in a primary care physician is convenience and accessibility.
You will likely want to find a doctor that is easily accessible to you in terms of location but also one that is easily reached. For example, you might find a doctor that is close to where you work or close to where you live and runs a relatively small practice so they are easily accessible.
With the rise of telehealth, you may even want to consider a digital option for maximum convenience.
Ultimately, the option that is right for you will depend on what attributes you consider most important in terms of convenience.
Finally, the most important thing to consider in a primary care physician is how comfortable you feel around them.
Your PCP should be someone that you can tell sensitive, sometimes uncomfortable, medical information. Because of this, you’ll want to decide whether you want a doctor who is male or female (or no preference), what kind of personality you want in a doctor, and their general scheduling and availability.
Additionally, if English isn’t your first language, you may feel more comfortable around a doctor that can speak your native language or understand your background.
In the end, the most important thing is finding a doctor you feel comfortable with – whatever that means to you.
How Do I Find A Primary Care Physician?
Thanks to modern technology, it’s never been easier to find a primary care physician. Let’s look at some of the ways you can find the right primary care doctor for you.
Word of Mouth
Asking friends and family members for a recommendation to a primary care physician is a great way to start your search for a trusted healthcare provider.
Since you likely share at least some commonalities, this can be a great way to find a doctor your will feel comfortable with and trust – the most important attribute.
Furthermore, if you have any friends working in the medical space, you may consider asking who they would recommend.
Your insurance company is another great resource for finding a primary care doctor.
Chances are your insurance company will assign you a PCP when you join, and you can always try meeting with that doctor. However, if not, you can contact your insurance and see which doctors are in their network.
Alternatively, you should be able to search your health insurance’s website and find doctors near you that are considered in the network. This will allow you to build a list of prospective doctors as well as look at their specializations and reviews online.
If you are still struggling to find a primary care physician, you can always look at review sites like Yelp or Google Reviews to see which doctors in your area are highly rated.
If you see certain offices or doctors getting consistently positive reviews from their patients then chances are they are a good option. Although you will have to make sure your doctor is in network (or pay out of pocket) this can be a great place to start your search.
Your General Wellness
Remember, finding the right primary care physician is one of the most important things you can do for your general health and wellness.
Your primary care physician is your medical advisor, your hub, and your educator and while it may take some time and effort to find the right primary care physician, it will absolutely be worth it.
As always, if you have any questions you can visit NowRx.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help!