How to Choose a Primary Care Physician

How to Choose a Primary Care Physician (PCP)

Who is your go-to doctor when medical care is needed for your family? Minor healthcare concerns often require support from a medical expert, and it can be helpful to build an ongoing relationship with one practitioner.

This doctor will be there to examine you, treat you, and advise you about important healthcare decisions. Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) becomes your partner to help you maintain optimal health and wellness over the years.

The challenge is finding a doctor you can trust. It can feel overwhelming to look at a long list of medical providers in local directories. These names and addresses don’t indicate information about the quality of care you can expect. So, you will need to do a little work to find the right doctor-patient relationship.

What is a Primary Care Physician?

A primary care physician, also known as a primary care provider, is a medical professional who offers general medicine services. This doctor is your first stop when healthcare services are needed. A PCP provides support for non-emergency medical care and routine checkups.

Not only do PCPs assist when medical concerns arise, but they can also be a proactive partner to keep you from getting sick in the first place. The goal is overall health and wellness through personalized treatment plans to match your individual concerns.

Preventive care can include everything from scheduled checkups to prescription refills, vaccinations, and lifestyle management.

In most situations, PCPs are doctors. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants can also act in the role of a primary care provider.

A variety of doctors can fall into the category of primary care physicians:

These providers have board certification in their field, which is an extra step to focus on specific services.

Priorities When Choosing a Primary Care Physician

These are some of the most important details to consider when you are choosing a primary care physician:

  • Location: Since this doctor is a provider, you will be visiting regularly. Choose someone who is close to home. The convenience of a nearby medical office will save you driving time when medical needs arise in the future.
  • Experience: A general practitioner can help with everything from minor injuries to the common cold. Learn about the expertise of your PCP. Also, consider using a group of providers who can offer a range of knowledge.
  • Specialty: Depending on your circumstances, you might choose a specialized provider. For example, a pediatrician focuses on medical care for infants and children, while a geriatric doctor provides services for the senior community.

Personality is another factor that can affect your in-office experience. When you find a doctor that fits your desired personality traits, then it could be a good sign that you’ve identified your PCP of choice.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a PCP

When you choose a primary care physician, it can help first ask a few questions to learn about available services. Not only do you need information about the provider, but it’s also necessary to make sure you have the right insurance coverage for these services. These are some of the questions you might ask:

  • Is the doctor listed as an in-work provider through your insurance? If you have health insurance coverage, then you can get financial support to cover a portion of all of the medical expenses. Check with your insurance plan to see which primary care physicians are covered by your plan.
  • What is the cost of office visits? For families who don’t have health insurance, ask about the out-of-pocket costs for visits. Knowing these costs in advance ensures that you are prepared financially when it’s time to visit the doctor.
  • Is the office convenient to your home? Finding a doctor close to home is convenient. Another option is to choose a provider near your children’s school or your workplace. Consider the time required for driving or public transportation, if needed.
  • What in-office procedures are available? Look for a primary care provider who can address the most common concerns in their office. Ideally, you can access x-rays, lab tests, and minor procedures without visiting another doctor’s office.
  • Do friends and family have local recommendations? It can be helpful to check in with your close circle of friends and family for recommendations. Talk to people that you trust to gather information about doctors they like in the area.
  • Is it necessary to have a referral? Sometimes when you are seeing a specialist, you need first to obtain a referral. Your primary care physician is the person who will be advising you on referrals to other services in the healthcare field.
  • What is the doctor’s availability? Not only do you need to consider the office hours, but also ask about the ease of scheduling an appointment. Ideally, find a provider that offers evening and weekend hours. Avoid offices that are booked out for weeks.
  • Is telemedicine available? It’s not always necessary to meet with a doctor in person for medical needs. Consider choosing a primary care provider who offers both in-office and telemedicine services.

Many of these questions can be answered by talking to the medical office. Either call to discuss available services or schedule an initial exam to talk to the doctor in person.

PCP: What Matters to You?

When you are choosing a PCP, it’s important to identify what matters most to you and your family. For example, do you prefer a provider who is friendly and open, or someone who is a little more formal?

Also, families like to consider the PCP’s treatment approach. Do you want to work with a doctor who is aggressive about treatments? Or, would you rather work with someone who takes a “wait and see” approach to minimize medical interventions?

Visiting a PCP vs. Emergency Services

Remember that your primary care physician is the doctor who can help with medical conditions that don’t require emergency treatment. For example, you might call your PCP if a family member has abdominal pain, a fever, ear pain, a rash, or a cough.

On the other hand, you should head straight to the emergency room if serious symptoms are occurring. Medical conditions that require emergency treatment include shortness of breath, heavy bleeding, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, an accident, or ingesting a harmful substance.

Why Choose an Urgent Care Primary Care?

Urgent care services can be a great solution for primary medical care. Families love the extended hours that we offer and the convenience in booking same-day appointments. At Rapid Med, our urgent care provides a full range of services for all members of your family.

If you are looking for a primary care provider, then contact us at Rapid Med Urgent Care to learn about available services. We offer both in-office appointments or telemedicine care through our On-Demand program.

Becki Andrus
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