Primary Care

Who is Your PCP? Part 1

Hi Everyone! Welcome to Health Care For the People! Now that we have been introduced let’s get started!

Today we are going to talk about a very important relationship that you should have in your life– not your wife or boyfriend or grandma or dog– but your Primary Care Provider, otherwise known as your PCP.

If you want to stay as healthy as possible, having a PCP is so vital because they get to know you very well in your current state– your body, your physical health, your mental health- and by continuing to see them every year and building that relationship they also track your health over time. This allows the PCP to manage your health in the best way possible!  

That being said, it’s very important that you get a PCP who is not only in your network (we will address this in the future Health Insurance 101 series) but also someone that you like and look forward to seeing on an annual basis, just like anyone else that you have a significant relationship with!

So now what does the PCP do??

The Role of the PCP:

  • Makes sure you get your preventive health screenings– this means annual check-ups, vaccinations, cancer screenings, and flu shots
  • Health coaching- helping you to quit smoking, eat more vegetables, exercise more, and drink less alcohol
  • Focuses on slowing any progression of disease– the first two above focus on preventing disease but for folks who have already been diagnosed with a disease, this means you and your PCP must focus on slowing the progression of disease through medication management and more. Oftentimes we can prevent or slow disease by taking better care of ourselves with our PCP’s help.
  • Addresses your urgent health needs (if it doesn’t need to be addressed by a specialist)
  • Addresses your needs holistically as a person– this means supporting you in achieving a positive mental state and referring you to community support and specialists as need be

What specialization of PCP should I see?

You might have noticed that there are different types of PCP “specializations”. Here are the breakdowns so you understand your options:

  • Pediatrics– specialize in managing the health of children (depending on the doctor they may continue seeing the patient until about 21 years old/college graduation)
  • General Internal Medicine– specialize in managing the health of adults
  • Family Medicine- specialize in managing the health of any-aged individual, i.e. the family
  • Geriatrics– specialize in managing the health of the elderly (typically greater than 80 years old)

If you are a young adult female you might think about using your gynecologist as your PCP. Most sources recommend against it because your PCP can do pap smears and again, this is an individual who looks at you holistically and will continue to know and support you over time.

What type of PCP should I see?

Nowadays your PCP could have different types of degrees. This is why we use the term “provider” instead of “physician”. They are all competent clinicians but here I will simplify the differences:

  • Physician– this is the typical M.D. or D.O. doctor that we know and love who went to medical school for four years after undergrad and then did a three-year residency in one of the above specializations.
  • Nurse Practitioner (N.P.)– this is a nurse who goes on to get a master’s or doctorate in nursing.
  • Physician’s Assistant (P.A.)– this is an individual with three years of P.A. school after undergrad and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.

Obviously it depends on the individual person and the bond you make but my absolute favorite PCP I’ve ever had was a P.A. out in Washington, D.C. She was a rockstar PCP so just know that they don’t necessarily have to be a doctor.

How often should you see your PCP?

Physicians recommend that adults see their PCP at least once a year and more often as recommended! Your health insurance should cover a free annual preventive visit with your PCP. It’s free! So get out of work for an hour and go use it!

Treat yo self

It’s also important to note that if you ever go to another clinic or the hospital that you let them know who your PCP is. You want this outside clinic or hospital to interact with your PCP since your PCP knows you best. Encourage them to either give you the medical records to give to your PCP or for them to directly e-communicate with the PCP and send the medical records that way. 

Let me know if you have any questions about getting a PCP. In our next post we will discuss the Care Team- all the people that the PCP supports as the quarterback of your care. Be sure to subscribe! Chat soon!  

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