Primary care provider, PCP, personal physician—these are just a few descriptions for the person you know as: your doctor. Your primary care doctor and their healthcare practice is one of your best healthcare resources. But what does “primary care” really mean? When it comes to primary care, here’s what you should know:
- Patient focus—First and foremost, you as the patient are central to primary care. Primary care as a practice gives you complete, coordinated care and support to help you live healthfully.
- First contact—Your primary care provider is your first point of contact when you need care. This provider can be a medical doctor (M.D.), doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), nurse practitioner (N.P.), or physician assistant (P.A.).
- Group effort—While you may have one primary care doctor, it’s not uncommon for your doctor to be part of a practice that includes physicians and non-physician health professionals who can step in if your doctor isn’t available and you need help. These folks are your healthcare team and work together to give you quality care.
- Patient empowerment—Your doctor is your partner, which means you also play a significant role in your own care. Through the education and information your doctor shares with you and your own research, you’ll be empowered to take charge of your health in a proactive, prevention-focused way.
- Health promotion—Primary care isn’t limited to just getting care when you’re sick (though that’s part of it). It also includes things like health maintenance, counseling, and education to help you stay healthy.
- Disease prevention—Your primary care doctor works with you to help prevent big health problems. Through regular check-ups and open conversation about your health and lifestyle habits, your doctor can help you prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- Care coordination—You may experience health conditions that require more care, such as specialty care, chronic disease management, or hospitalization. Your primary care team helps coordinate your care and makes sure important information is shared with all those who are caring for your health.
- Healthcare advocacy—Your primary care doctor can help you navigate the healthcare system and figure out how to meet your healthcare needs in a cost-effective way. This includes working with other providers involved in your care, as well as with your health insurance company.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians