Finding the right doctor for your primary care needs is important. Let us answer your primary care physician frequently asked questions.
A primary care physician (PCP) gets to know you, your history and your family health history. Building a long-term relationship with your doctor can translate to major health benefits over your lifetime. This can mean lower overall health costs, a decrease in hospital and ER visits, and better management of chronic disease.
Your primary care physician can identify health issues in their early stages before they become major problems. They offer preventive care such as immunizations, regular tests and screenings (cholesterol, blood pressure, flu shots and cancer screenings), as well as diet and lifestyle advice to maintain or improve your health.
Primary care physicians are like coaches, directing and coordinating all aspects of your health care – physical, emotional and mental. They listen to your questions, assess symptoms, recommend treatment approaches, prescribe medication and refer you to the proper specialist when needed.
Be open and honest with your physician regarding what’s going on with your health. Don’t hold back if something is bothering you. Are you experiencing painful or uncomfortable symptoms that interfere with your daily life? Is a medication you’re taking making you feel sick? Do you need help with making healthy decisions or lifestyle choices? Are you having problems sleeping or with your marriage or children? Are you experiencing stress, depression or sadness? All of these factors can impact your health.
Primary care physicians fall into one of three categories: family medicine doctors, internal medicine doctors and pediatricians. An internal medicine doctor cares for adults. A pediatrician cares for children. A family medicine doctor (or family practitioner) is a pediatrician and internal medicine doctor combined into one specialty. They care for both children and adults.
Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine on a team and are supervised by physicians, surgeons and other healthcare workers. A PA can diagnose a patient or prescribe treatment. Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses who have advanced clinical training. They diagnose and treat medical problems, perform advanced procedures and prescribe medications.
Seeing your physician once a year for a physical exam is an excellent way to manage your health. Many health insurance plans classify an annual physical as preventive care, and some plans cover preventive care services at no charge.
There are a number of factors to consider when selecting your primary care physician. Get opinions from people you trust: family members, friends and co-workers. Check your health plan to find out what physicians are in your plan, or “in-network.”
Once you have a list of potential names, do some research on each of the “candidates.” Chances are there are websites that have online profiles or videos of the physicians you’re considering. Do you prefer a doctor’s office near your home or work? What are the office hours, and do they have weekend hours? Consider visiting the practice to meet the staff and get a feel for the environment. Are the people approachable, friendly and helpful? Can you schedule an appointment in a reasonable time period?
Most importantly, your primary care physician should be someone you trust – someone who listens to you and makes you feel comfortable when talking about your health issues.
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