Choosing a Primary Care Provider
By Terence A. Rousseau, D.O.
Payson Healthcare Management
When it comes to maintaining good health, it takes a village – a multidisciplinary team of experts – to provide comprehensive health care. It’s not unusual for your preventive care regime to include regular visits to more than one doctor: a family physician, an obstetrician or gynecologist, and any specialist involved in treating chronic conditions: an allergist, dermatologist, orthopedist or cardiologist, for example.
However, it’s important to have one team leader quarterbacking your health care, so to speak. This person is your primary care physician and he or she serves as the coordinator for your care. Choosing a primary care physician may be the most important step in caring for your health.
What is a primary care physician?
Your primary care physician (PCP) is the doctor you typically see for an annual physical, i.e., your main health care provider for non-emergency care. Your PCP performs routine tests that are needed at various stages throughout your life to monitor your health and diagnose and treat medical problems. If needed, your PCP can refer you to a specialist if a serious illness requiring special management is necessary. A PCP serves as the chief facilitator for other physicians involved in your care, making sure that all the components– from treatments to prescribed medications – work together effectively, for your good health. A PCP will provide preventive care, based on their knowledge of your unique health history, heredity, and other factors. He or she will also provide you with health education, so that you can make informed decisions about your lifestyle, nutrition, and physical activity.
A PCP is typically a family practitioner or an internist, although some obstetricians may function as a PCP for their patients. A family medicine doctor can treat children and adults of all ages, and may also perform obstetrics, gynecology and minor surgery. An internist is a doctor who is trained to care for adults of all ages.
The advantage of having a PCP over using a walk-in clinic or urgent care center for routine health maintenance is continuity: an ongoing relationship with a single doctor who has in-depth knowledge about you and your health history, family background, past injuries or illnesses, allergies, and risk factors for certain diseases.
Choosing the right doctor for you
You and your PCP will be together for a long time, so making the right choice is important. You may ask family and friends for recommendations, check with other health providers you may know, or consult with your local hospital for a physician referral.
As you begin your search for a primary care provider, consider the following tips from the National Institutes of Health:
- Does the physician participate in your insurance plan (also known as an “in-network provider”?) If not, the amount of your co-payment for seeing the physician may be higher.
- Is the physician accepting new patients?
- Is the practice located in an area that is close to your home or work location? Are the office hours convenient for your schedule?
- What is most important to you in a good PCP? A physician who can treat the whole family or just treat your own conditions?
- What about your personal preferences? Do you feel more comfortable with a male or a female doctor? A young doctor or an older physician? A warm, casual and friendly communication style or one that is more formal?
- Does the physician use a conservative or aggressive approach to medical treatment? Does he or she ask about the patient’s preferences regarding specific types of medical treatments?
- Is the physician easy to reach by phone? Does he or she use (and encourage patient contact) via email? Are office staff members friendly and helpful?
- And, by the way, what is a D.O.? The main difference between a D.O. and an M.D. is that D.O.s is trained to physically manipulate the body using certain techniques to help restore proper function to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Some D.O. use these techniques frequently in their practice and some do not.
For help in choosing a doctor in the Payson area, visit www.paysonhospital.com and click on the physician search link (found at the top of the page) for a database of our physicians arranged by last name, specialty, geographic location and gender. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Rousseau, call 472-4675. The doctor is a member of Payson Healthcare Management, a member of Payson Regional Medical Center.
Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information and facilitate conversations with your physician that will benefit your health.
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National Institutes of Health www.nlm.nih.gov; Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research www.ahrq.gov; WebMD www.webmd.com; American Medical Association www.ama-assn.org