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Choosing a primary care provider
Alternative namesFamily doctor - how to choose one; Primary care provider - how to choose one; Doctor - how to choose a family doctor
A primary care provider (PCP) is a general practitioner who sees people of all ages for common medical problems. This person is usually a doctor, but may be a physician's assistant or a nurse practitioner. Your PCP is often involved in your care for a long time, so it is important to select someone with whom you will work well.
A PCP is your main healthcare provider in non-emergency situations. Your PCP's role is to:
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.
Having a primary care provider can give you a trusting, ongoing relationship with one medical professional over time. You can choose from several different types of PCPs:
Many insurance plans limit the providers you can choose from, or provide financial incentives for you to select from a specific list of providers. Make sure you know what your insurance covers before starting to narrow down your options.
When choosing a PCP, also consider the following:
You can get referrals from:
Another option is to request an appointment to "interview" a potential provider. There may be no cost to do this, or you may be charged a co-payment or other small fee. Some practices, particularly pediatric practice groups, may have an open house where you have an opportunity to meet several of the providers in that particular group.
If you do not currently have a primary health care provider and a health care problem arises, it is usually best to seek non-emergency care from an "urgent care center" rather than a hospital emergency room. This will often save you time and money. In recent years, many emergency rooms have expanded their services to include reasonably priced urgent care within the emergency room itself or an adjoining area -- to find out, call the hospital first.
Update Date: 12/8/2003Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT