Selecting a primary care provider

Choosing a family doctor or PCP

Even if you don’t get sick very often, having a regular family doctor is important. This is a person that can get to know you and your family and can be trusted to make the right decisions about your health. Family doctors also are called primary care physicians or PCPs.

PCPs are there to:

  • Teach you about healthy choices and ways to prevent illness
  • Treat you when you’re sick and find out what the problem is
  • Help determine if you have an emergency and send you to the best place to take care of it
  • Give you a referral or recommendation to a specialist, when you need one

PCPs have different titles and specialize in different areas of medicine:

Family doctors see children and adults of all ages. They also may see newborns and infants and do small operations in the office.

Pediatricians specialize in the care of newborns, infants, children and adolescents.

Internists take care of adults of all ages for many different medical problems.

Obstetricians/gynecologists are doctors who treat women and their unique health issues. They often serve as a PCP for women, particularly those of childbearing age.

Physician assistants (PAs) work with a doctor as a team. They can do most of what doctors do, but must be supervised by a doctor.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses (RNs) with more education and training in a specialty area such as family practice or pediatrics.

How to choose a PCP

When choosing a PCP, you should consider:

  • How friendly the office people are. Are they helpful? Do they return your calls? 
  • If the office is opened when you need it to be. 
  • How easy it is to reach the PCP. Can you reach them via email?
  • If you prefer a PCP that is friendly and warm, or one that’s more formal and to the point. Ask the office staff what type of doctor he or she is.
  • If the PCP is known for treating diseases or for preventing them. 
  • What colleagues and patients say about the PCP. Check on the Internet for reviews.
  • Asking your friends, neighbors or relatives for recommendations. You can also ask your dentist, pharmacist or insurance company for information to help you make a decision. 

Members can search for providers on the find a provider webpage.