BACK TOTOP Browse A-ZSearchBrowse A-ZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0-9 E-mail FormEmail ResultsName:Email address:Recipients Name:Recipients address:Message: Print-FriendlyBookmarksbookmarks-menuChoosing a primary care providerFamily doctor - how to choose one; Primary care provider - how to choose one; Doctor - how to choose a family doctorA primary care provider (PCP) is a health care practitioner who sees people that have common medical problems. This person is most often a doctor. However, a PCP may be a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner. Your PCP is often involved in your care for a long time. Therefore, it is important to choose someone with whom you will work well.Physician assistantHISTORY OF THE PROFESSIONThe first Physician Assistant (PA) training program was founded in 1965 at Duke University by Dr. Eugene Stead. Programs re...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Nurse practitionerA nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse with a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing. This type of provider may also be referred to as an ARNP (...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Information 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 medical specialists when necessary Primary care is most often 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 PCP can give you a trusting, ongoing relationship with one medical professional over time. You can choose from several different types of PCPs:Family practitioners: Doctors who have completed a family practice residency and are board-certified, or board-eligible, for this specialty. The scope of their practice includes children and adults of all ages and may include obstetrics and minor surgery. Pediatricians: Doctors who have completed a pediatric residency and are board-certified or board-eligible in this specialty. The scope of their practice includes the care of newborns, infants, children, and adolescents. Geriatricians: Doctors who have completed a residency in either family medicine or internal medicine and are board-certified in this specialty. They often serve as a PCP for older adults with complex medical needs related to aging. Internists: Doctors who have completed a residency in internal medicine and are board-certified or board-eligible in this specialty. The scope of their practice includes the care of adults of all ages for many different medical problems. Obstetricians/gynecologists: Doctors who have completed a residency and are board-certified or board-eligible in this specialty. They often serve as a PCP for women, particularly those of childbearing age. Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA): Practitioners who go through a different training and certification process than doctors. They may be your PCP in some practices. 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:Is the office staff friendly and helpful? Is the office good about returning calls? Are the office hours convenient to your schedule? How easy is it to reach the provider? Does the provider use email? Do you prefer a provider whose communication style is friendly and warm, or more formal? Do you prefer a provider focused on disease treatment, or wellness and prevention? Does the provider have a conservative or aggressive approach to treatment? Does the provider order a lot of tests? Does the provider refer to other specialists frequently or infrequently? What do colleagues and patients say about the provider? Does the provider invite you to be involved in your care? Does the provider view your patient-provider relationship as a true partnership? You can get referrals from:Friends, neighbors, or relatives State-level medical associations, nursing associations, and associations for physician assistants Your dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, previous provider, or other health professional Advocacy groups may be especially helpful to find the best provider for a specific chronic condition or disability Many health plans, such as HMOs or PPOs, have websites, directories, or customer service staff who can help you select a PCP who is right for you 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 a health care problem comes up and you do not have a primary provider, in most cases, it is 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 urgent care within the emergency room itself or an adjoining area. To find out, contact the hospital first.Open ReferencesReferencesGoldman L, Schafer AI. Approach to medicine, the patient, and the medical profession: medicine as a learned and humane profession. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 1.Rakel RE. Family physician. In: Rakel RE, Rakel D. eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 1.US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Human Services. Choosing a doctor: quick tips. health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/doctor-visits/regular-checkups/choosing-doctor-quick-tips. Updated March 30,2022. Accessed March 30, 2022.AllVideoImagesTogPatient and doctor work together - illustration A primary care provider can allow you to establish a trusting relationship with one medical professional over time and maintain continuity in your personal health care. Working as a team you and your primary care physician can work towards preventive health care and follow the best measures needed to achieve and maintain your personal health.Patient and doctor work togetherillustrationTypes of health care providers - illustration Health care providers range from generalists to providers who specialize in certain areas of the body or disease. Any category of medicine or care such as cancer or anesthesia can have a specialist. Nurses also can specialize in certain areas of medical care.Types of health care providersillustrationPatient and doctor work together - illustration A primary care provider can allow you to establish a trusting relationship with one medical professional over time and maintain continuity in your personal health care. Working as a team you and your primary care physician can work towards preventive health care and follow the best measures needed to achieve and maintain your personal health.Patient and doctor work togetherillustrationTypes of health care providers - illustration Health care providers range from generalists to providers who specialize in certain areas of the body or disease. Any category of medicine or care such as cancer or anesthesia can have a specialist. Nurses also can specialize in certain areas of medical care.Types of health care providersillustrationA Closer Look Epilepsy(In-Depth)Birth control options for women(In-Depth)Pneumonia(In-Depth)Migraine headaches(In-Depth)Diabetes - type 2(In-Depth)Heart-healthy diet(In-Depth)Eating disorders(In-Depth)Diabetes diet(In-Depth)Multiple sclerosis(In-Depth)High blood pressure(In-Depth)Self Care Choosing a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilityCholesterol - drug treatmentRelated Information Review Date: 7/19/2021 Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 03/30/2022. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. 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