Every team needs a coach — a point person with experience,
perspective and the ability to provide trustworthy guidance during
challenging times. When it comes to personal health, that role is typically filled by a Primary Care Physician (PCP). Here’s what you need to know about the importance of having a PCP and how to find one.
A Valuable Relationship
A PCP safeguards your health in many ways that may not be immediately apparent to you.
Most interactions with health care providers — technicians, pharmacists, urgent care or emergency room physicians — are brief and often singular encounters. A PCP is an exception to this. Seeing you regularly gives a PCP the capacity to build a relationship with you that allows them to provide health care centered around you — your lifestyle, values, risks and concerns.
Lower-Cost Health Care
A PCP is the best option for treating minor health conditions such as sore throats, coughs, influenza, earaches, mild allergy symptoms, sprains and strains, superficial burns, cuts and scrapes, skin rashes, eye irritation or redness, urinary tract infections, and minor asthma issues. In these instances you are being treated by a doctor who knows you, and your out-of-pocket costs will be significantly less than going to an urgent care center or emergency room.
A PCP establishes a baseline for tracking your health over time. Familiarity with your health history allows your doctor to identify minor issues and address them, if possible, before they become major problems. Preventive care is an integral part of tracking your health history. Most health insurance covers preventive care services such as colonoscopies, mammograms and various other screenings at low or no cost when you access these services through your PCP.
A Health Care Guide
The U.S. health care system is large, complex and often overwhelming. A PCP can help you navigate this system while serving as a knowledgeable source for referrals to other physicians, health care specialists and services.
Choosing a Primary Care Physician
To enjoy the benefits a PCP offers, you must first have one. Here are some things to consider when choosing a PCP and why they are important.
Start now. The ideal time to find a PCP is before you need one. Choosing a doctor requires some level of effort and decision-making, which is best handled when you are feeling good, not when your energy is depleted because of an illness or immediate health problem.
Stay in network. Going out of your plan’s network costs more. Choose doctors who accept your plan. Be sure to look for quality designations such as “Total Care” providers.
Map it out. As you narrow down your selection, make sure the doctor’s office is easily accessible. The more convenient the location, the more likely you will keep your appointments and seek services when you need them.
Cold call the office. When you call the office to inquire whether the physician is taking new patients or to learn more about the practice’s process for meeting new patients, pay attention to how office staff treats you. They should be respectful, professional and friendly.
Don’t get discouraged. If the in-network physician you want is not accepting new patients, don’t get discouraged. Your insurance provider has resources available for finding other qualified physicians who are taking patients and eager to begin a patient/care provider relationship with you.
Assess your first visit. During your first visit, pay attention to how the doctor treats you. Is he or she sensitive to your cultural and/or religious beliefs? Did they answer all your questions in a way you understood? Did they make you feel at ease?
Finding the right PCP is an important step on your journey to achieving and maintaining good health, and enjoying a high quality of living that includes feeling confident about your wellness program.