Working in tandem for better health
Whether you’re healthy or sick, male or female, 15 years old or 100 years young, you’re in charge. Ask yourself this: are you healthy? Maybe you are today, but what about tomorrow?
Finding a physician who you like and trust, and building a partnership with him or her over time, is one of the best things you can do for your health.
“PCP” is a commonly used acronym to describe your primary health care provider. This is usually a physician, but can also be a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who works under the direction of a physician.
Why do I need a primary care physician?
People who have an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician (PCP) have better overall health and lower health-related expenses than those without a PCP.
Find and visit a primary care doctor you trust. They become your go-to provider in non-emergency situations, and are specifically trained and skilled in continuing care for persons with any undiagnosed sign, symptom or health concern, not limited by problem origin (biological, behavioral or social), organ system or diagnosis.
On a daily basis, a PCP provides health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illness.
When you have questions about your health, who do you ask?
The role of a PCP is to:
- Provide comprehensive exams and preventive care
- Identify and treat common, sudden and chronic medical conditions
- Teach healthy lifestyle choices
- Assess the urgency of your medical problems and direct you to the best place for that care
- Make referrals to medical specialists when necessary
How does having a PCP benefit you?
- Research shows that people who have an ongoing relationship with a PCP have better overall health outcomes and lower death rates than those people without a PCP.
- Research also shows that those with a PCP save money in the long run. One reason for that savings is the primary care doctor’s focus on prevention.
- When you have a primary care doctor, you’re never on your own with your health care.
What if something more serious happens to me?
Primary care is usually provided in an outpatient setting; however, if you are admitted to the hospital, your PCP may assist in or direct your care, depending on the circumstances.
Internist: treats adults ages 18 and over and are the broadest category of primary care providers
Family Practitioner: sees patients of all ages, and tends to see more than one member of a family
Pediatrician: specializes in caring for newborns, children and adolescents
Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner (APNP): treats patients of all ages depending on their specialty (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, etc.)
What’s the difference?
MD (medical doctor): practice allopathic medicine, the classical form of medicine, focused on the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.
DO (doctor of osteopathy): practice osteopathic medicine, which is centered on a more holistic view of medicine in which the focus is on seeing the patient as a “whole person” to reach a diagnosis, rather than treating the symptoms alone.
Primary care physician vs. medical specialist
Primary care physician: helps keep you healthy, provides a home base for all your medical needs, and is your go-to when you’re sick.
A specialist: has a deeper but narrower skill set and may serve only a short-term purpose, such as diagnosing a problem or designing a treatment regimen. Some females choose to see their OB/GYN provider for their annual check-up. Providers, such as OB/GYNs, generally focus on women’s care and don’t directly focus on disease management and screening out of the OB/GYN arena. Women can have both.
How do I find a primary care physician for myself or a family member?
Option #1: Call NurseDirect at 800-362-9900. A referral associate will assist you in selecting a PCP. If they help you arrive at a decision, they can connect you to the clinic during office hours so an appointment can be made.
What’s important to you?
- Are the office hours or location convenient? You can choose one closer to work or home.
- Do you tend to require frequent labs? You can find a clinic with lab and general radiology services on location.
- Are there any language barriers? You can find a PCP who speaks your language.
- What do you want in a doctor? You can find what you want.
- Do you want a PCP who has similar interests as you? Every PCP lists their outside interests in their bio so you can find one you connect with.
Option #3: Word-of-mouth. Ask your family, friends or co-workers.