Choosing the Right Primary Care Physician (PCP)

Now is the time of year when many people are deciding who will be their Primary Care Physician, or PCP. Most health insurance plans require a person to appoint a PCP—usually a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO)—to oversee their overall health and wellness needs.

The three main categories of PCPs include:

Family Physicians: Trained to treat patients of all ages
Pediatricians: Specialists in the medical needs of babies, children and adolescents
✔ Internists: Focused on the needs of adults.

Think of your PCP as your advocate in the healthcare system. Except in the case of an emergency, your PCP is generally your initial point of contact for your healthcare needs. He/she will 1) diagnose and treat common conditions; 2) educate you on making healthy lifestyle changes and other preventive measures; 3) assess urgent problems and direct you to appropriate care; 4) coordinate the referral process if you need to see a specialist.

Many people have a long-term relationship with their PCP and refer to their PCP as “my doctor” or “our family physician.” Having a doctor-patient relationship built on trust and confidence is one of the keys to receiving quality health care. As you’re looking at different doctors in your health insurance provider directory, think about what you want in a health partnership. Does the doctor’s office need to be close to work or home? Can you make early morning, evening or weekend appointments? Do you need a doctor who speaks a language other than English? Would you prefer someone who is similar in age or of the same gender?

For quality care, make sure you choose the right PCP for your unique healthcare needs.