Choosing a primary care provider (PCP) who best fits you and your needs can be a daunting task.
You might feel like you have a list of questions and aren’t sure where to begin to find the best answers.
Having a good relationship with your provider is important to your health. Building effective communication within that relationship will help better manage your medical care in the long run.
Below are some questions you might ask yourself when determining the right health care provider for you along with suggestions for next steps in your search to finding the right fit.
- Are they in my insurance network?
- Do I prefer an MD, DO, PA, or NP? What do these letters mean?
- What traits in a provider are important to me?
- Is location, gender or a certain health focus, such as diet and exercise or women’s health important?
- Do I want my entire family to see the same provider or prefer to see someone who only sees adults?
Once you have asked yourself these questions and answered them, you will be more prepared to begin your search.
Neighbors and friends who know you are great resources, along with your dentist or eye doctor. Keep in mind that you can also look up providers and read their profiles to see who best fits the traits you desire in a PCP. You can easily narrow this search by location, gender, disease, condition, or specialty.
Defining Your Provider
There are a few other terms that you will run across during this search that may be helpful to define. An MD, for example, is a medical doctor. This is an individual who has completed medical school (usually four years) and has typically done a residency (years of supervised hands-on training) in a particular area of medicine.
A DO is a doctor of osteopathy. Although their training is a little different than an MD, they also obtain a doctorate after what is typically four years of schooling and a residency.
A PA is a physician assistant, and an NP is a nurse practitioner. These individuals generally have a master’s level training, but some continue on to complete their doctorate. In primary care, PAs and NPs have roles that are very similar to MDs and DOs but under an MD or DO’s indirect supervision.
These professionals all work together as a team sharing knowledge and experience with each other when needed to provide the best care for you.
Importance of Having a Primary Care Provider
A PCP is someone who you can have a long-term relationship with to help you stay healthy or get better when you are sick. Primary care providers partner with you to help you prevent disease and catch potential health problems early before they become severe.
He or she will also know when you need more advanced care, like a hospital procedure or a specialist, and can help you navigate those waters. Studies show that people who have a PCP spend less time in the hospital and less money on medical costs in the long run.
There are different types of providers who focus on primary care:
- Family practitioners (also known as family doctors) who see patients of all ages.
- Pediatricians who care for infants, children and teenagers.
- Internists, or internal medicine providers, who see only adults.
- Geriatricians who care for older people.
- Obstetricians and gynecologists who focus on women’s health and pregnancy.
An overall better patient-provider relationship equals better outcomes. Finding a PCP who best fits your needs will lead to a great relationship with someone who you can team up with to make you the healthiest that you can be.
Learn More About Joanna Murray, MPH, PA-C
Joanna Murray is a board-certified physician assistant with clinical interests in preventative medicine and women’s health. She earned her physician assistant degree from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina and completed her master’s in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC. Joanna believes in caring for the total patient since our health depends on not just our physical lives, but our emotional, spiritual and relational lives. She believes in partnering with her patients, listening to them and working together to decide how best to move forward. Outside of work, Joanna enjoys spending time with her family, playing taxi driver for three children, hiking, camping and exploring new places. Schedule an appointment with Joanna today.