Finding the Right PCP for You
A primary care provider (PCP) is often your first line of defense when you’re not feeling well and play an important role in keeping you healthy. A PCP is typically a physician or an advanced practicing clinician, such as a physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse.
Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, a longtime Emergency Department nurse and mom of three, shares why finding a PCP that fits your needs is an important part of good health and wellness.
What does a primary care provider do?
Nurse Rose: A PCP care wear many different hats: They can diagnose and treat mild illnesses and injuries, like a sinus infection, strep throat, flu or a sprained ankle. Treatment may include some form of prescription medication, like an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory to help you feel better.
A PCP is also on the front lines of helping you manage chronic conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety or depression. In fact, your PCP is often the one who initially diagnoses these conditions and creates a treatment plan to help you stay healthy. A PCP can even identify “warning signs” that indicate you may be at high risk for developing a serious disease, such as diabetes and work with you to make lifestyle changes to prevent it from occurring.
Another very important role your PCP plays is one of collaboration. Your PCP may refer you to a specialist for advanced treatment. This could include a cardiologist to assess heart disease, an oncologist to manage a cancer diagnosis or an endocrinologist to help control diabetes. Your PCP will work closely with providers who are treating you to stay informed of your progress and help you manage your health condition.
Why is it important to establish a relationship with a provider?
Nurse Rose: A strong relationship with your provider can help you feel comfortable sharing health questions and concerns. When you see a different provider every year, it can be difficult to establish a level of comfort and confidence. This relationship also helps give you a stronger voice in your health plan – empowering you to speak up, share your goals and admit your concerns and worries.
How can I find the right provider for me?
Nurse Rose: There are a lot of different steps you can take to find a provider that meets your needs. The first, most obvious, step in finding a provider is to select one that accepts your insurance and is conveniently located. After all, it’s hard to create a relationship – and keep appointments – with a provider that’s far from work or home.
Provider websites often have insurance information online or you can call the office and ask directly. Have your insurance card handy so you can share the insurer’s name and type of plan you have.
Once you find someone that checks those two important boxes, schedule a consultation to meet the provider. It’s best to meet for the first time before you’re sick or have a serious health need. During that appointment, ask:
- What is your approach to care?
- Why did you become a doctor?
- What do you wish more patients knew or would do?
- How do you make decisions about treatment?
- What areas of medicine are you interested in?
- What are your background and training?
The practice’s website may also offer insight on many of these questions. Read your doctor’s online bio and check out online reviews. Just keep in mind that reviews may not always be an accurate representation of the provider’s care approach.