Everyone needs a primary care physician. Think of this type of doctor as your first point of contact for anything related to your health. Primary care physicians (PCPs) provide the ongoing preventive care you need, treat you when you’re sick, help you manage ongoing health issues, and connect you to other doctors that provide more specialized care.
Primary care doctors go by many names
- Internal medicine – An MD who specializes in adult medicine and preventing and treating adult diseases.
- Family medicine – An MD who diagnoses and treats conditions in both adults and children. This is a great option if you want your whole family to see the same doctor.
- Geriatric medicine – An MD who specializes in caring for the elderly and in preventing and treating diseases that affect older people.
- Nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant – A nurse or other medical provider who has had additional training to diagnose and treat most of the same conditions as an MD. They often work in a larger practice alongside other doctors.
How to choose a primary care physician
- In-network – Your preventive care will likely be free and you’ll save out-of-pocket costs in the long run.
- Provider quality – Look at patient reviews, certifications, board affiliations, and other quality ratings.
Consider your preferences:
- Distance – Would you rather have your doctor near home or work?
- Gender – What would be more comfortable for you?
- Experience – How long has the doctor been practicing?
- Type of practice/clinic – Does the doctor have an independent practice, or does he or she work at a clinic with other physicians?
- Convenient services and resources – Does the doctor’s practice have a nurse line you can call for advice or telehealth? Online appointments? Secure messaging or email?