Finding a new primary care physician (PCP) as a young adult can be overwhelming. That’s especially the case if you recently left your parents’ insurance plan and need a health professional you can trust.
After years of relying on a pediatrician with intimate knowledge of your medical history, it can be hard to navigate the many options of new doctors.
So, let’s break it down. Discover the steps for finding a PCP and tips for scheduling your first visit.
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What Is a Primary Care Physician?
A PCP helps diagnose and treat a wide variety of conditions in all types of patients. They’re your main resource for general questions about your health.
Primary care doctors are often your first line of defense throughout your health care journey. They make sure you’re caught up on preventive vaccines, physicals, and screenings. They also track and record your medical history to diagnose conditions and address chronic health concerns.
They also can perform in-office tests and blood draws, prescribe medications, and make referrals to specialty clinics for care outside of their expertise.
How to Find a Primary Care Physician
First, you’ll want to determine which doctors are in your health insurance “network” — or who accepts your insurance plan. To do this, you often can call the office and ask. You also can use online directories to begin your search.
Finding a professional who accepts your insurance means you’ll have lower out-of-pocket costs after each visit. It may help to find a hospital system or medical institution that you know accepts your insurance and identify a doctor within that network.
If you do not have health insurance, ask about discounted self-pay options or possible help for low-income patients. Consider seeking government assistance or exploring other affordable insurance plans, too.
If you already have a family physician you trust, ask them for a referral. You also can ask trusted family and friends if they have a recommendation.
Focus your search
Now it’s time to narrow your search. Many doctors identify as PCPs, including those in family practice, internal medicine, and general practice. Identify doctors who have experience with your particular health needs or concerns.
- Family practice doctors typically accept patients of all ages, from infancy to old age. They’re able to treat and diagnose a variety of conditions, which may include women’s health needs and sports injuries.
- General practice physicians also usually treat patients of all ages. But they often focus on single patients rather than families. They may not specialize in particular conditions but rather in broader wellness.
- Internal medicine doctors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing chronic illness or disease in adults.
Once you’ve zeroed in on your preference, confirm the doctor is accepting new patients by contacting their office.
Location and office hours
During your quest for a new doctor, don’t forget to research how far their office is from your home or workplace. Also, consider whether their office hours are flexible enough to accommodate your schedule.
Ask about telehealth services, last-minute appointments, and missed/rescheduled appointment policies. You also may want to check what hospital the doctor admits patients to in emergencies.
Schedule a visit
The best way to confirm whether a new physician is right for you is to schedule a face-to-face visit.
When you make the appointment, either via phone or through an online portal, let the office staff know you’re looking for a new provider and would like to sit down and discuss your expectations.
During the appointment, get a feel for the office atmosphere and confirm you’re comfortable with the entire staff. Talk about your medical history, medications, and worries moving forward. Confirm the provider can meet those requirements.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
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.