Your PCP's role is to:
- Identify and treat common medical conditions
- Provide preventive care and teach healthy lifestyle, nutrition and physical activity choices
- Determine the urgency of your medical problems and make referrals to medical specialists when necessary.
Your PCP has in-depth knowledge about your health history, past injuries or illnesses, allergies, and risk factors for certain diseases etc.; therefore, if you were to develop a serious condition, he or she will be able to serve as the main facilitator for other physicians who may then be involved in your care.
There are several different types of PCPs:
Family practitioners - doctors who have completed a family practice residency and are board certified or board eligible in this specialty. Their scope of care includes children and adults of all ages and may include obstetrics and minor surgery.
Pediatricians -doctors who have completed a pediatric residency and are board certified or board eligible in this specialty. The scope of their practice includes the care of newborns, infants, children and adolescents.
Internists - doctors who have completed a residency in internal medicine and are board certified or board eligible in this specialty. The scope of their practice includes the care of adults of all ages for many different medical problems.
Obstetricians/gynecologists - doctors who have completed a residency and are board certified, or board eligible, in this specialty. They often serve as a PCP for women of childbearing age.
Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) - practitioners who go through a different training and certification process than doctors. They may be your key contact in some practices.
Making the right choice
Because your PCP is often involved in your care for a long time, it's important to select someone with whom you will work well. Consider the following:
- Is the physician accepting new patients?
- Are the office hours and location convenient?
- Do you prefer a PCP who utilizes email?
- Do you prefer a PCP whose communication style is friendly and warm, or more formal?
- Is the office staff helpful and do they return calls in a timely manner?
- Are same-day appointments available?
- Does the PCP have a conservative or aggressive treatment approach?
- Does the PCP refer to other specialists frequently or infrequently?
- Does the PCP invite you to be involved in your care?
- Does the physician participate in your insurance plan?
- Do you prefer a male or a female doctor; a younger or older doctor?
- Is the doctor board certified? (Becoming board certified is an optional, voluntary process that ensures a doctor has been tested on his or her knowledge, skills and experience in a specialty.)
If you've been putting off finding a PCP who can oversee all of your medical needs, make it a goal this New Year.Be sure to ask friends, neighbors, or relatives for referrals to PCPs in your area who meet your requirements. Or Abilene Regional Medical Centerhas several PCPs from which you can chose. Visit www.AbileneRegional.com and choose the Find-a-Physician link for a database of our physicians, or call our Physician Referral Line at 325-428-INFO.
About the Author: Sam Salvi, M.D. is a board-certified family practitioner. His office is located at 6250 Regional Plaza, Suite 1050.
Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information to facilitate conversations with their physician.