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Choosing a primary care physician (PCP)

By AJ Murphy

Choosing the right PCP is one of the most important parts of your health care. We’re here to support and inform you so that you can make the best choice for you and your family. You can select your PCP after you enroll with Aetna Better Health®.

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How do I choose a PCP?

Before you choose your PCP, make sure they are on our provider list. You should also consider your personal needs like:

  • How friendly is the office staff? Are they helpful? Do they return your calls?
  • Is the office open when you need it to be?
  • How easy is it to reach the PCP? Can you reach them via email?
  • Do you prefer a PCP that is friendly and warm or one that’s more formal and to the point?
  • What do colleagues and patients say about the PCP? Check the Internet for reviews.
  • Do your friends, neighbors or relatives have recommendations?

You can also ask your dentist or pharmacist for information that will help you make your decision.

Where can I see a PCP?

There are many places where you can see a PCP. Some providers have their own offices, some work in group offices and some work in clinics. Other types of care centers include:

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs): Plan members have the right to get services at these community-based health centers in our network.
  • Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities: American Indians and Alaskan Native members can get medical services from an IHS clinic.
  • Independent practice associations (IPAs): Plan members can request that their PCP or specialist is part of an IPA group. These groups are made up of providers, specialists, health care systems and programs. The IPA will manage all your care. 

What types of PCPs are there?

There are many different types of providers that you can choose as your PCP. There are:

  • Family physicians: They treat people of all ages. They may also do small procedures in the office.
  • Internists: They take care of adults with a variety of medical problems.
  • Obstetrician/gynecologists (Ob/Gyns): They treat female health issues. They often serve as a PCP for women who are of childbearing age.
  • Physician assistants (PAs): A PA works with a doctor as a team. They can only give care if a licensed doctor is supervising them.
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs): They are registered nurses (RNs) with more education and training.

What do I do after I choose my PCP?

Now that you’ve chosen your PCP, it’s time to make an appointment for a “new member checkup.” This visit is also called a “well visit” or “initial health assessment.” This should be done within the first 60 days of becoming a member. First, your PCP will look at your medical historyand give you a checkup. If it’s necessary, they can begin any new treatment that you might need. They will also talk to you about preventive care. And they can even refer you to a specialist if you need one.

Can I change my PCP?

You can always change your PCP to another doctor in our network. Just call Member Services or visit our secure Member Portal. In most cases, your PCP will change on the first day of the month following your request.

About the author

AJ Murphy is an evocative young writer who grew up in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood. AJ began his writing career at Alaska Ice Rinks Inc. in Anchorage, AK, where he also drove a Zamboni and took care of outdoor hockey rinks.

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