What Is Primary Care For?
Your primary care provider (PCP) is your prevention partner and your first stop for medical care. Most PCPs are doctors, but nurse practitioners and physician assistants can also be primary care providers. PCPs are also known as primary care physicians, family doctors, general physicians or family medicine doctors. One of their most important jobs is to help keep you and your family in good health. They help you understand your medical history and take care of health concerns before they become health problems.
You and your child should visit your primary care doctor for routine check-ups or illnesses and injuries that aren't emergencies. They also help manage chronic conditions. Usually, primary care doctors can treat illnesses and conditions in their own offices. If you need more specialized care, they can refer you or your child to a trusted, experienced specialist.
How to Choose a Provider
Your relationship with your health care provider is extremely important. You should be able to trust your doctor with your most private health issues or problems, and should feel certain that he or she is your partner. You may need to choose a new provider if you've never had a primary care physician, if you're new to the area or if your current one stops participating in your health insurance plan or no longer satisfies your specific needs. It's best to look for a doctor when you're healthy. When you're ill or in pain, you won't have time or energy to carefully gather information.
Here are some good questions to ask at your first appointment to establish care:
- How can I reach you in an emergency?
- Is it always necessary to make an appointment?
- Will you or a nurse answer routine questions over the phone?
- Who gives care for your patients in your absence?
- Has a medical specialty board certified you? If so, in what specialty area?
- At what hospitals do you have privileges? (Make sure the hospital is covered by your insurance.)