Matt Collins, M.D., VP Clinical
Integration, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
According to 2014 data from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 52 percent of physician
office visits were to see a primary care provider (PCP) in the United States. While
many PCPs are doctors, some are nurse practitioners, which is a nurse who can
give a wide range of healthcare services and write prescriptions.
Choosing a PCP can sometimes feel like a complicated experience,
especially if you have recently moved or changed insurance plans. However,
choosing a PCP is an extremely important decision. If you have complicated
medical needs, your PCP will lead the team of healthcare professionals caring
for you—which may include specialists, nurses, nutritionists, social workers and
behavioral health clinicians—and be your main point of contact.
If you’re not sure where to begin when choosing a PCP, ask
yourself these three questions:
Where should I start?
Take the time to research online about good PCPs while also
consulting with family, friends, and neighbors. Your new or existing insurance
plan can also recommend a PCP. Many insurance plans offer a list of in-network
doctors and hospitals or an online tool to search by plan and location such as
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s (BCBSRI) “Find a Doctor” tool.
What are my options?
When you’re choosing a PCP, it’s important to note that
healthcare professionals specialize in different types of medicine such as:
Family Medicine or General Practice – Treating patients
of all genders and ages, from newborns to the elderly.
Internal Medicine – Typically treating adults and
specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and management of disease and chronic
Pediatrics – A primary care provider for your child.
Based on these options, you can easily narrow down the type
of provider who will meet your health needs and provide you with the best care.
I’ve chosen my specialization, but what else should I take
For some people, location and hours of operation of a PCP are
important key factors. Tools like BCBSRI’s Find a Doctor can help
you find a PCP whose office location is convenient for you. If you have work
commitments that make it difficult to take time off for appointments, you can
ask the PCP’s office about after-hours availability.
You may also want to consider looking for a PCP in a
patient-centered medical home (PCMH). Many of Rhode Island’s largest groups of
PCPs are now PCMHs, which offer an entire healthcare team all under one roof.
And, when you have selected your new PCP and are going to
your first appointment, remember to bring your medical history, such as records
of prior immunizations, past health screenings, family medical history, and a
list of current medication or supplements you may be taking.
A PCP is your main partner in the overall management of your
health and wellness, so it’s critical to select someone who you are comfortable
with and trust. For additional information on selecting a PCP and getting the
most out of your medical visits, visit: http://www.rhodeahead.com/learn/importance-primary-care-provider and http://www.rhodeahead.com/learn/get-most-your-doctors-visit.