What is a Primary Car Provider and Why Do I Need One?


Primary Care Provider (PCP)

is your primary partner for health. This is the clinician that serves as the leader of your entire healthcare team and the one that will know you and your health the best. Your PCP focuses on your overall health, and the role of your PCP is to provide and coordinate the essential elements of good health.

She/he will ensure that you get appropriate preventive screenings and assessments, and she/he will listen to your health concerns and offer guidance for healthy lifestyle choices. Your PCP will identify and treat common medical conditions like cold, flu, and non-emergent illnesses, but will also treat and manage chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and numerous other chronic ailments.

Your PCP will monitor the severity of your medical conditions to determine when it is appropriate to direct you to other medical specialists, will coordinate that care, and will communicate with your other specialists to always know what is happening with your health. Your PCP will get to know you and your health very well and will be able to identify life elements that are individually relevant to you to ensure long-term wellness.

As part of your comprehensive care,

your PCP will consider your personal risk factors, social habits, and family medical history to identify areas that may have an impact on your optimal health and wellness.

In addition, she/he will also monitor medication use to assess for any adverse effects or problems and will provide oversight to ensure the treatments, medications, therapies and recommendations from various providers are effective and appropriate.

The relationship you build with your PCP is important. You’ll want to select someone you feel comfortable having honest conversations with and someone with expertise in the areas that meet your health needs.

You may keep the same PCP for years or may change PCPs frequently due to location or insurance changes. Some insurance plans may require you to have a PCP. There are several different types of doctors that can serve as primary care providers, including providers in Family Practice, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics. Family practice physicians are able to treat patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. They are generalists who can treat a wide variety of conditions.

Internal medicine physicians specialize

in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult diseases. Pediatricians specialize in healthcare needs of children. Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) can also serve as your PCP, either independently or in association with a supervising physician.

There may be many things for you to consider in making your choice of PCP, and there are many resources available to help you select the right PCP for you.

Your health insurance plan may have listings of doctors in its network who are accepting new patients. You can ask friends, families, and co-workers for recommendations. If someone you respect and trust has a positive experience with their PCP, it is possible that you may like that particular provider as well. You can also ask other physicians who are currently treating you. Often, they know the PCPs in their community and can make a trusted referral.

You may want to consider

location and choose a PCP that is close to your home or work or an office that is open during hours that can accommodate your schedule.

If you don’t already have a PCP, don’t delay in embarking on this important relationship. Don’t wait until you are sick to meet your new PCP. Developing a relationship with your Primary Care Provider when you are healthy and feeling well can be the first step in protecting you from future illnesses. As goes the old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Theresa Stretch

Dr. Theresa Stretch is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. She is a Primary Care Provider at Pleasant Ridge Internal Medicine. pleasantridgemedicine.com