If you’re someone who only visits a doctor when you’re sick, you may not have a primary care physician (PCP). But whether you’re perfectly healthy most of the time, or you have chronic health issues, you can still benefit from having one. A PCP truly is a partner who will be with you in sickness and health.
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What Is a PCP?
A PCP is your main doctor — kind of like the captain of your personal health care team. Your PCP is the doctor you can turn to for general health care needs. They’re also the most important point of contact when you need special care.
Primary care physicians provide general medical care in an outpatient setting. They often specialize in:
- Family medicine, providing care for patients of all genders, ranging in age from young children through older adults, including entire families.
- Internal medicine, caring for adults with a focus on chronic disease prevention and management.
- Geriatrics, providing care for older adults who often develop more complex medical conditions and multiple chronic illnesses as they age.
Your PCP has training and experience with a wide range of common medical problems. These can include acute illnesses like strep throat, an ear infection, or a pulled muscle. They also provide care for chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure.
For health conditions that require a specialist, your PCP can help you choose the right one and coordinate your care. This is a service you might not give much thought to when you’re healthy. But if you suddenly need special testing, treatments, or hospitalization, it saves time and minimizes stress. It’s nice to know you’ll always get the proper care you need.
Prevention Keeps You Healthy
One of the main benefits of having a PCP is access to wellness services. You may not have health problems now, but your risks and concerns will change as you age. A primary care practice provides a range of services designed to help prevent chronic health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Some of the services they provide include:
- A review of your family history and a conversation about your personal health risks.
- Education and advice about health conditions and a healthy lifestyle.
- Vaccines and immunizations.
- Screening tests for cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
- A review of — and updates for — any prescription medicines.
- Cancer screening tests like a mammogram or colonoscopy, depending on your age and risk factors.
- Advice about mental health or sleep problems.
When you stay in close contact with your PCP, they know your complete health history and your risk factors. Together you’ll be proactive about your health. That allows you to head off problems before they turn into something more serious.
Having a PCP gives you peace of mind knowing someone always has your back when it comes to your health.
How to Find a PCP
There are lots of primary care doctors around, and it can seem like an overwhelming task to find the right one. The best way to start is to ask friends and family for referrals. You might find the same name or practice keeps coming up.
Once you have a few names, verify that they accept your health insurance and the office is convenient to your home or work. Finally, call the office and ask questions to find out:
- Office hours or days of the week they’re available.
- Whether they provide same-day appointments and urgent care services.
- If they offer in-house lab services.
- If they provide health education classes or programs.
- If the practice has an online portal to review test results and contact your PCP with questions.
A good place to start in your search for a PCP is on UPMC’s Find a Doctor site. You can search by location, specialty, gender, and language.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
U.S. National Library of Medicine. Medline Plus. Choosing a Primary Care Provider.https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001939.htm
About Primary Care
The relationship with a patient and their primary care doctor can be extremely valuable, and that’s what you get with UPMC Primary Care. When you work with a primary care physician (PCP), you develop a lasting relationship. Your doctor will get to know you and your history and can plan your treatments accordingly. Our PCPs offer a variety of services, including preventive care and treatment for both urgent and chronic conditions. With dozens of UPMC Primary Care locations across our network of care, you can find a PCP close to you. Schedule an appointment today.