A Primary Care Physician or a PCP is someone who practices general medicine. They are your first stop when it comes to any non-emergency medical issue. If they are not able to take care of you in house, they can refer you to a specialist. Their goal is to oversee your health throughout the entire process. PCP’s are typically Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants.
Types of Primary Care Physicians
The type of PCP you should be looking for depends on your family’s needs.
Family Medicine Doctors
Family doctors are meant to take care of your whole family. They look over people of all ages from infants to the elderly. Your family doctor should be your primary physician for any non-emergency medical issues. However, they will care for you when you have an acute issue such as an illness or injury, as well as your routine care for physicals and check-ups.
Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in children’s health from birth to 18 years of age. Generally, pediatricians will refer patients who reach 18 years to a family medicine physician.
Internal Medicine Doctors or “Internist”
Internist’s are doctors that specialize in adult care who have an expertise in diagnosing and treating complex diseases most common in adults.
Obstetrics and Gynecology Doctors or “OB-GYNs”
OB-GYNs are doctors that focus on women’s reproductive health. They are specialized in caring for women from pregnancy to birth as well as birth control and menopause.
Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant
A Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant is a nurse that is qualified to practice general medicine without the supervision of a doctor.
What should I see my Primary Care Physician for?
Most Primary Care Physicians see everything from acute issues such as a sore throat to more serious illnesses such as diabetes. Primary Care Physicians also provide preventive care. Depending on your age, preventative care is free with most insurance companies. They will cover things such as immunizations and annual physicals. Regular annual physicals are important to create healthy benchmarks and identify any issues before they get worse. Most PCP’s also provide in house procedures such as wart removal and laceration repair.
The main job of your PCP is to oversee your care. An important part of this is when your PCP “refers” you to a specialist. When specialized care is needed, they will be able to refer you to a provider that they trust. In the end, your PCP and the specialist will be able to communicate about the best options for your care. With many health insurance plans, referrals are necessary to get the covered care that you need.
Do I have to see a Primary Care Physician?
The answer is no BUT Primary Care Physicians offer more than just helping you when you’re sick. They provide personalized care from start to finish. PCP’s are able to follow you throughout your life and determine the best care for you based off of your health history. PCP’s are also crucial to getting specialized care. By referring you to specialists that they trust, you can be sure that your health is being overseen the entire time.
When looking for a PCP, it is important to make sure that they are the right fit for you. First, check with your insurance company. Most insurance companies have a directory of PCP’s that you can choose from so be sure to check with them for your in-network providers. Next, look at what other people have said about them. Good websites to look at are Healthgrades.com and Ratemds.com. Lastly, set up an appointment to establish care with your new PCP. This gives you and the provider a chance to sit down and talk about your health history. It also establishes a long-term relationship between you and the physician.
Are you looking for a new Primary Care Physician? Center for Lifetime Health has three providers that can be your PCP! Call our office to schedule your initial appointment.