Choosing Your PSMG Primary Care Provider
A primary care physician (PCP) sees patients for basic medical needs and continued care. They perform all general services and know your health history better than any other doctor.
A visit to your PCP is usually the first step for common and chronic conditions. If needed, they can make referrals to specialists.
The types of doctors that serve as primary care practitioners are:
- Family practice doctors are similar to traditional doctors for the entire family. They are qualified to deal with all ages and genders and are trained in a variety of medical subjects.
- Internal medicine doctors generally treat adults and they provide care from general health to complex illnesses. Some internists specialize in a particular organ, disease, or age group.
- Internal medicine/pediatrics physicians are trained in internal medicine and pediatrics and can care for the newborn to the geriatric patient.
- Pediatricians are trained in the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents up to age 18.
- Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN) practitioners specialize in the female reproductive organs and can often serve as primary care doctors for women.
Advanced Practice Providers
- Physician assistants, or PAs, are graduates of an accredited PA educational program. They are nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. PAs are educated on the medical model with an emphasis on primary care. All PAs rotate through the major specialties and complete a vast number of clinical rotations while in training. PAs are licensed to practice in all areas of medicine and even in surgery.
- Advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs, are registered nurses with additional advanced clinical education and specialty expertise. APRNs complete a master’s or doctoral degree program with expansive clinical hour rotations and are board-certified. Nurse practitioners may be certified in a broad variety of primary care specialties, including family practice, acute care (adult and/or pediatric), women’s health, neonatal, pediatrics, gerontology, and psychiatry. APRNs can prescribe medications and order tests for all procedures. A doctor supervises all APRNs.
Why would I need a Primary Care Doctor?
Whether or not you need to choose a primary care doctor will depend on what type of health insurance plan you choose. If you have a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan, you will typically need to have a primary care physician, since any visits to specialists must come with a referral from a PCP.
Some key things to know about an HMO plan:
- An entire network of healthcare providers agrees to offer you its services, but you have to select a primary care provider (PCP) who coordinates all of your health services and care.
- HMOs usually offer coverage for most types of preventive care, including specialist visits, but in most cases, specialist visits can only happen with a referral from your PCP. Additionally, you will pay copayment fees for every non-preventive medical visit, and you may have an annual deductible.
- HMOs are usually best suited for individuals and families that want to save money and do not mind using a limited provider network.
Each plan has its own terms and limitations, so be sure to check the official plan documents to understand how that specific plan works. This article is only for general education.
What are some of the benefits of having a Primary Care Doctor?
Your health insurance plan may not require you to choose a primary care provider (PCP), but there are good reasons to choose one. Some examples are:
- Your Medical history. Hospitals keep medical records, so if you often go to doctors within the same network, there’s probably a file of your medical history in their system. But having one health practitioner who knows your medical history, and knows you personally might help when it comes to keeping you healthy and finding the source of any health problems you might be experiencing.
- Your Health plan. Similarly, having a doctor you’re familiar with can help making a health plan easier on both you and your medical practitioner. If you want to create a long term plan for maintaining a healthier lifestyle, having consistency and familiarity with your provider might be a good idea.
- Your Annual Check-up. Some health insurance plans come with an annual check-up that doesn’t require a copayment from you. But even if your plan does require a copayment, going to the doctor to check in on your health isn’t a bad idea. They can check back in with you about any problems you discussed with them previously. Going to a primary care doctor might also help you feel more comfortable to ask questions and share any concerns that you wouldn’t be as comfortable to bring up in front of a doctor you’ve never met before.