A primary care provider, or PCP, is a doctor you see yearly for your annual checkup and more often if needed. Many people put off finding a primary care doctor because they don’t feel sick. Others aren’t sure how to find a PCP.
Whether it’s been years since you’ve had an annual exam or you just moved to the area and need a new doctor, there are many reasons to prioritize finding a primary care physician who is the right fit for you.
Why Primary Care Doctors Matter
Establishing a relationship with a primary care provider gives you peace of mind when you feel great and reliable care when don’t.
Annual exams help to:
- Answer your questions
- Keep you healthy
- Record your health baseline so it’s easier to recognize when something is off
- Strengthen the relationship between you and your PCP
When you have concerns or aren’t feeling your best, your primary care doctor is also available to treat common illnesses, help you to effectively manage chronic health conditions and provide referrals to specialists.
How to Find a Primary Care Physician
Ask family and friends about how they feel about their PCPs. If you have another health professional you trust, such as a dentist or pharmacist, ask for their recommendations. You can also go on the internet to learn about a doctor’s training and interests and read reviews from other patients.
How to Know It’s a Good Fit
The first step to finding a PCP who’s a good fit is to think about what matters to you. You might consider if you’d like a primary care physician who is:
- Able to speak your first language or offers a medical interpreter
- Available on certain days or times
- Close to your home
- More relaxed in their approach or more formal
- Of the same sex as you
- Younger, older or around your age
If you want a PCP with particular expertise, such as family medicine or geriatrics, look for a Board Certified doctor in that specialty.
Once you have a list of two or three doctors, call their offices to ask if they are taking new patients. If they are, ask the office staff about the doctor and his or her policies and procedures.
You might ask:
- Does the PCP offer telehealth services?
- Is there a way to communicate between visits?
- What happens if the PCP is on vacation when I get sick?
No matter which primary care doctor you choose, you want someone who:
- Explains things in understandable ways
- Gives you a chance to ask questions
- Treats you respectfully
During annual visits with your primary care provider, you can expect them to:
- Check your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation level
- Do a general physical exam
- Discuss your current health, medical history and goals
- Give you needed immunizations
- Measure your height and weight
- Perform or schedule preventive screenings based on your sex, age and health history
How to Prepare
Think about what you’d like to ask your PCP before your appointment. Bring a list of questions, concerns and medications you’re taking.
Primary care physicians are more than medical experts. They are patient care experts. They know how to listen and support you as you work toward your personal health goals.