Primary care providers(PCPs) are invaluable resources within the ailing healthcare system. For most people, these professionals are often the only resource to resolve any health-related needs and problems. They advise patients, educate them about wellness, examine them for chronic illnesses, and treat them if they develop any health issues. PCPs lower costs because access to primary care reduces trips to emergency rooms and specialists. Therefore, they help people make vital decisions about their physical and mental well-being. They are the backbone of the American healthcare system.
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That is why it is necessary to choose someone you can trust. But, how can you decide on a PCP by looking at a list online? And as more professionals join primary care, choosing a professional will become even more confusing. There are several healthcare providers, such as nurse practitioners, physicians, or physician assistants. All of them have different degrees and specialties. Therefore, you will have to follow several steps to discover which practitioner is best for you.
Step 1: Make a list of what you want in a Primary Care Provider
Before beginning your search, you should have an idea about the standards of care you are expecting. You might want someone with a terminal degree in their profession. Fortunately, several excellent universities offer advanced healthcare degrees, such as a masters in nursing online, for non-doctors to skill up and begin their private practice. These PR actioners are well-equipped to address most if not all of our health concerns.
Similarly, some people are more comfortable with female gynecologists as they feel shy in front of male practitioners. And some patients want their primary care providers to care for specific age groups. So, it is better to keep these things in mind when looking for your PCP.
Step 2: Understanding primary care specialties
Several providers practice primary care. However, all of them specialize in different kinds of care. Therefore, a patient can choose a medical professional with a specialty in a relevant field. Some examples of primary care specialties include:
- Family Practitioners: This category of practitioners provides services for people of all ages. Therefore, most families prefer to hire them as PCPs. They have a residency in family practice with board certification.
- Geriatrician: Elderly patients require special care as they develop complicated age-related issues. According to the American Geriatrics Society, more than 30 percent of above 65 people require specialized care. So, it is common for the elderly to see specialists get aid in medical issues.
- Pediatrician: Pediatrics provide care to children from their birth till they become an adult. They often have board certification with a pediatric residency.
Step 3: Ask your health insurance provider
More than 352.8 million Americans have health insurance. While this is good news for their bank accounts, it complicates matters when they want to change their primary care provider. Patients have to check their health insurance plans to see which providers can manage their care. While they can choose someone not approved by their insurance plan, it is expensive to do so.
Most medical insurers have a composed list of providers in each area their members can choose. Do not hesitate to directly contact your insurance provider to inquire more about the terms of your insurance plan.
Step 4: Gather information from other sources
You can also use healthcare databases and online forums to narrow down your research. Some directories, such as the Medicare Physician Compare tool, offer support to patients with specific insurance plans. Word-of-mouth is another way to look for new recommendations. You can ask your friends and family about their experiences with doctors and nurse practitioners to narrow your search. This way, you can gather personalized information on how the person in question treats patients.
Step 5: Shortlist some PCPs
After you have done your preliminary research, note down the shortlisted options to compare and analyze them. Next, you must investigate to narrow a long list to one healthcare provider.
Step 6: Call their clinic
Not only the behavior of your provider will affect your quality of care, but their team will also play a significant part in your treatment plan. To gauge the attitude of their workers, call their office and talk to them. Use this opportunity to evaluate how the staff treats you. An impatient team might be goal-oriented, but it might also be the reason behind unpleasantries at the clinic. Therefore, vet your options thoroughly. You might also want to book an appointment with the PCP you’re investigating.
Step 7: Check their qualifications
Specialized providers complete extra training and pass additional exams that enable them to practice in specialty care. Patients with specific conditions require help from experienced and competent providers. Therefore, it is necessary to check that your primary care provider is board-certified.
Step 8: Track the distance to your primary care provider
You might have to make several trips to your primary care provider. Therefore, the location of your potential PCP is a vital factor to consider before finalizing your decision. A healthcare professional with a practice that is an hour away from your home will have you swimming in bills in addition to medical ones. So, check the distance between your place of residence and the clinic.
Step 9: Ask the right questions
It is essential for you to feel comfortable with your primary care provider. Hence, ask them questions about your treatment plan. If you speak a different language, look for someone who speaks the same language. You can also ask them about their office hours and whether they have experience dealing with specific conditions.
Step 10: Choose a doctor and evaluate them
Your first appointment is the time to evaluate the PCP. So, schedule an appointment with someone who is the correct fit for your personality and healthcare needs. Once you meet the provider, you should note how they behave with you. Ask them about their quality of care and pay attention to their verbal communication. Their non-verbal cues will tell you how they approach patient care. Rushed healthcare professionals do not have a holistic view of patient care. Remember, the first impression tends to be a depiction of what the future entails. So, keep a close eye on the medical professional before you decide.
Primary care providers have a significant effect on patient care and costs. Therefore, choosing one is a serious decision. With the correct professional, patients can avoid serious illnesses and reduce the risk of premature death. This article highlighted some critical steps you must take when shortlisting a PCP for yourself or your family. Adhere to these to make the right choice.