A Primary Care Provider (PCP) is a health care practitioner who sees people of all ages that have common medical problems and/or health and wellness issues. This person can be a physician, a physician assistant (PA), or a family nurse practitioner (FNP). Your PCP is often involved in all stages of your life, so it is important to select someone with whom you will work well.
A PCP is your main health care provider in non-emergency situations. Your PCP’s role is to:
- Provide preventive care and teach healthy lifestyle choices
- Identify and treat common medical conditions
- Assess the urgency of your medical problems and direct you to the best place for that care
- Make referrals to a medical specialist when necessary
Primary care is usually given in an outpatient setting. However, if you are admitted to the hospital, your PCP may assist in your care, depending on the circumstances.
Having a primary care provider can offer you a trusting, ongoing relationship with a medical professional for a lifetime. You can choose from several different types of PCPs:
Providers that have completed a family practice residency and are board certified, or board eligible for this specialty. The scope of the practice includes children and adults of all ages and may include obstetrics and minor surgery.
Practitioners of internal medicine focus on adult medicine and have had special study and training on the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. At least three of their seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training are dedicated to learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults.
Physician Assistants (PA) & Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP)
Practitioners who go through a different training and certification process than physicians. They are often referred to as “physician extenders” and often are your key contact to some practices. All PAs and FNPs consult with physicians.
Compatibility is crucial- otherwise you may not be comfortable divulging personal information that could be affecting your health. Patients should partner with the health care provider in establishing a relationship and foster open communications that are important in good medicine. Staying healthy is a two way street. As a patient you need to take responsibility for your health care:
- Ask questions. Write down your questions before your appointment and bring them with you.
- Make sure you tell your health care provider the truth; they are not there to judge you and need accurate information to provide you with the best care.
- If you want to research your condition, ask your health care provider the best sources to go to for correct information.
Along with compatibility look for the following:
- Associated with an organization that is committed to quality care.
- Takes steps to prevent illness. For example, health and wellness discussions.
- Has privileges at the hospital.
- Is part of your health plan, unless you can afford to pay extra.
- Encourages you to ask questions.
- Listens to you and treats you with respect.
- Explains things clearly and again if needed.