- I Need to Go to The Doctor, But I Don’t Have A Primary Care Physician
- Q: Will The Provider Have Any Of My Medical History?
- Q: At What Point Do I Really Need A Primary Care Physician?
- Q: Why GoHealth Urgent Care?
- Millennials Don’t Have PCPs; Here’s Why They Should
- Five tips for choosing a new primary care physician
- Training requirements
- General Practitioners and Family Practice: What are the differences
- What kind of primary care doctor do I need?
- Family medicine doctors
- Internal medicine-pediatrics doctors
- Internal medicine doctors
- No matter what type of doctor you see, seeing them regularly is key
- Preventive care appointments and screenings are often free
- Definition #4 – Non-Primary Care Physicians Providing Primary Care Services
- Definition #5 – Non-Physician Primary Care Providers
- Use of Term
- Study reinforces benefits of primary care
- Choosing a PCP team
- Preparing for your visits
- You haven’t had a checkup in forever
- You wish you could get quick answers to your questions
- Many Americans don’t have a primary care doctor
- Choosing Your Doctor (Primary Care Physician)
- Why should you choose a primary care physician?
I Need to Go to The Doctor, But I Don’t Have A Primary Care Physician
1- Make An Appointment With a Primary Care Physician: There’s no substitute for a primary care physician, and if you don’t have one, we recommend asking your insurance company for options. Of course, they might not be able to meet you for weeks. But we think you should make that call anyway. (We’ll tell you why later.)
2- Go To The Emergency Room: If you decide your ailments require emergency attention and admit yourself to the E.R., you still might find yourself waiting 2-6 hours to be seen. The E.R. deals with the most serious, often life-threatening conditions and must triage, or prioritize, each patient by severity. Your bad flu or twisted ankle, as painful as it might be to you, might not compare. Don’t forget, however, that medical costs incurred at ERs can be astronomical—worse still if you are uninsured. So think twice before going to emergency.
3- VisitanUrgentCareCenter(Recommended): Urgent Care Centers are your ideal for immediate but non-life threatening conditions like, coughs, colds, UTIs, allergies, broken bones, rashes, etc. Best of all, appointments are not necessary. You’ll be able to see a healthcare provider that same day. Urgent care centers are even being opened now with x-ray machines and laboratories. That means if you need a chest x-ray or a throat culture you’ll never have to be referred to a hospital, saving you precious time and money.
Q: Will The Provider Have Any Of My Medical History?
A: It depends on where you go.
If you go to a standalone facility, it is unlikely that they would. In that case, make sure to relay to the provider information on your medications, allergies, and your medical history. If you go to an urgent care center that is affiliated with a larger health network, like GoHealth Urgent Care, and you’ve visited one of their facilities in the past, they probably will!
Q: At What Point Do I Really Need A Primary Care Physician?
A: Get one anyway. We can help you find one.
Remember that appointment we told you to schedule? Regardless of what becomes of your condition we strongly advise getting a primary care physician anyway. At GoHealth Urgent Care, we believe that preventative medicine is one of the cornerstones of a healthy America, and an important part of that is finding a dedicated doctor.
So if you really are suddenly faced with injury or illness, visit GoHealth Urgent Care first. We’ll treat your immediate symptoms and can also recommend a Primary Care Physician.
Q: Why GoHealth Urgent Care?
A: Because we put you first — by providing an effortless patient experience, a welcoming culture of care and seamless integration with market-leading health systems and our communities.
See our prices on co-pays and same-day visits, with and without insurance.
GoHealth Urgent Care partners with these regional healthcare providers:
- Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in New York
- Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in San Francisco
- Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care in Portland & Vancouver
- Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care in Connecticut
- Mercy-GoHealth Urgent Care in Arkansas, Springfield, St. Louis & Oklahoma
- Novant Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in North Carolina
Millennials Don’t Have PCPs; Here’s Why They Should
It’s a question that spurred a social media debate(twitter.com) on the heels of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study(www.washingtonpost.com) that found nearly half of 18- to 29-year-olds say they don’t have a primary care physician.
The trend isn’t surprising. Millennial patients value convenience and connectivity over relationships.(www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com) They would rather get immediate care from an app or a retail clinic than wait to see a physician.
But relegating primary care physicians to chronic care management isn’t the answer to our nation’s health care woes.
Instead, primary care delivery needs to evolve to meet the needs of modern patients. It’s why I’m proud to work for an innovative primary care organization called One Medical. The cornerstone of our model is designing a cutting-edge primary care system with the patient at the center.
As a result, easy access points — including in-person and virtual care — are a fundamental tenet. We value team-based care that includes nurse practitioners and physician assistants. We utilize technology to actually improve care delivery, not hinder it. A patient can do a video visit about their cold in real time or get treated for a urinary tract infection by reporting their symptoms asynchronously on our app. They can fill out an online questionnaire about an upcoming international trip, then walk into our office to get their travel vaccines. They can get a same-day appointment (including evening and weekend hours in some locations) to have their sudden ear pain evaluated.
Nonetheless, the main cornerstone of how we deliver high-quality care long term is the relationship patients have with their PCP.
Many of our patients are young and don’t have chronic conditions. But we keep them engaged in their health to maintain wellness. We also proactively educate patients about the range of services we offer.
Studies have shown that comprehensive primary care has the potential to reduce health care costs(www.annfammed.org) — through care coordination, curbing unnecessary/wasteful tests, and decreasing both ER utilization and hospital stays. Most importantly, primary care improves patient health outcomes, including mortality.(www.healthaffairs.org)
But how is any of this translated to younger, healthier patients? We are already witnessing the consequences of younger, healthier patients lacking a PCP through the usage of urgent cares or retail health centers for acute, episodic care. Unfortunately, retail health centers actually increase health care spending,(www.healthaffairs.org) likely attributed to overutilization in a still-traditional face-to-face setting.
And urgent cares are not necessarily known for their high-value care.(jamanetwork.com) Half of all patients who seek treatment for basic colds in an acute care setting get unnecessary antibiotics, compared with only 17 percent who are seen in an outpatient doctor’s office. Not only is this approach costly, but unnecessary antibiotic use has several potential harms.
Cost is not the only lens we should view health care through — quality and outcomes matter. And that’s the main reason millennials deserve a PCP, too.
After all, it’s a PCP who can support a patient through behavioral change, like decreasing alcohol use. It’s a PCP who can link a patient’s insomnia to their underlying anxiety disorder or detect and address their risk of diabetes. It’s a PCP who can have a thoughtful conversation with a patient about why they don’t need an MRI for their headache.
Continuous care also matters in piecing through episode care. I recently met a new patient who had multiple, one-time visits at different urgent cares for fevers and sore throats. Through testing in our office, we found out he actually had HIV.
In acute settings, I’ve seen high blood pressure dismissed due to a patient “being sick.” When they later established care with me, I diagnosed their hypertension and started multiple interventions.
Last week at the AAFP Family Medicine Experience in New Orleans, I met family physicians who deliver babies in rural communities, serve as team physicians for college athletes, and are at the forefront of battling the opioid crisis. Our scope may be different, but we share a commonality in our commitment to patients.
What differentiates primary care is not just what we do for patients — it’s our philosophy of care. Primary care is not just about ordering vaccines and screening for cancer. The primary care philosophy is to care for every patient. We are adaptable. We evaluate evidence and avoid unnecessary tests, but engage in shared decision-making and respect patient autonomy. We believe research should include a breadth of clinical patients. Health care delivery should continually evolve while keeping patients at the center.
Through this approach, we can make a real impact on the health care system as well as on individual patients. And that includes the young, healthy ones, too.
Five tips for choosing a new primary care physician
Internal Medicine – Internal medicine physicians typically treat adults and specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and management of disease and chronic conditions.
General Practice – General Practice physicians are like family practice physicians and can treat patients of any gender or age. This category is one area where you might also find osteopaths, which are physicians that practice a type of alternative medicine with special focus on the musculoskeletal system, and are distinguished by the “D.O.” after their name instead of “M.D.”
3. Ask for Referrals
Many people feel most comfortable visiting a physician who is recommended by someone they know, like a family member, co-worker or friend. Ask around and see what doctor your friends and family visit. You can also ask another healthcare professional with whom you have a relationship, like a women’s primary care physician, a pharmacist, or even your dentist for a recommendation. If you’re moving, ask your current doctor if they have a recommendation for your new location.
4. Think About Logistics
Do you want a doctor located close to your home or office? Use your Blue Cross Blue Shield company’s doctor directory or “provider finder” to search for doctors with an office location that is convenient for you to visit. You’ll also want to consider office hours – what days and times does the doctor see patients? Will you need to take time off work to visit the office, or can you go after work or on weekends? It’s also a good idea to check what hospital the doctor admits patients to.
Language is another important factor to check. You need to be able to communicate clearly with your doctor, so check which languages he or she speaks to be sure you’ll be able to understand each other. Many doctors now use email or an online portal to communicate with patients, which may be another item of importance to tech-savvy communicators when selecting a physician.
5. Visit the Doctor
Nothing can really give you a feel for whether you’ve selected the right doctor like an office visit and a face-to-face meeting. Be sure you feel comfortable in the office and with the physician and nurses. Your primary care physician should be someone you trust and can rely on to help manage your healthcare. Talk with him or her about any current medications you are taking and your medical history to be sure you are on the same page when it comes to managing any chronic conditions.
When in the office, you should evaluate other environmental factors. Take into account the demeanor of the people who answer the phone and greet you when you walk in – are they efficient and friendly? Are the phones answered in a timely manner? How far in advance do you need to schedule an appointment? And how long is the wait to see the doctor after you arrive for your appointment?
If for any reason you are not happy with your choice, most Blue Cross Blue Shield plans allow for you to change your primary care physician anytime during the plan year.
Ready to get started? Find your Blue Cross Blue Shield company’s website and start browsing the provider finder today.
Requirements for becoming a primary care physician differs based on location.
Asia – In most Asian countries, medical students who wish to become primary care physicians must complete the basic medical degree equivalent to Bachelor of Medicine. In India and Bangladesh, these are Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery or Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery. These often take four and a half years up to five years. This should be followed by an internship divided into varying periods spent in different departments. After a satisfactory internship, permanent registration as a Registered General Practitioner follows.
Europe – In Europe, aspiring medical practitioners should complete six years of study followed by three years of working as a junior practitioner; this is the European equivalent of an internship. In some countries, another year of lectures as well as two residency years is also required.
Spain – In Spain, GPs are often hired by the state to work for state-owned community health centers. To become a GP, one has to study medicine for a total of six years and pass the MIR or Medico Interno Residente exam. They also have to complete a 4-year training program focusing on general medicine and general practice. They are also trained in major fields, such as pediatrics, psychology, orthopedics, and gynecology. They then have the choice whether to seek training in ophthalmology, infectious diseases, rheumatology, and other specialties, as long as they complete the whole four-year curriculum.
United Kingdom – Primary care physicians in the UK complete five years of medical school training. They may obtain degrees in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. After this, they need to complete two years of Foundation Training and three years of GP Specialty Training Program during which they will be trained in bstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, geriatrics, accident and emergency, and psychiatry.
General Practitioners and Family Practice: What are the differences
In the United States, general practice and family practice used to refer to the same profession or role. Both used to refer to a medical professional who graduated from medical school and completed the required internship period of one year.
Today, however, family practice is considered as a specialty, for which a physician must complete, on top of basic requirements, a residency focused solely on family medicine. Family doctors now also undergo board certification.
General practitioners, therefore, are medical doctors who have completed the basic professional requirements in becoming a health practitioner without seeking further specialization. Rather than specialize, they seek competence in and play different roles. When positioned in a certain community, a general practitioner would be the community’s surgeon, internist, and obstetrician, or whatever medical role is currently needed..
- American Academy of Family Physicians: https://aafp.org/
- American Academy of General Physicians. https://aagp.org/
What kind of primary care doctor do I need?
There are five main types of primary care doctors. Each has a different background and focus, but all can provide you with the regular preventive health care you need, and can help with the management of some chronic conditions. Here’s a quick breakdown of the five types of primary care doctors, and why you might consider each type for your own care.
Family medicine doctors
The unique benefit of family medicine doctors is that they care for your whole family. They see babies, children, parents and grandparents. No matter who in your family is sick, you have one person to call who knows your family history and can provide highly personalized care.
Why choose a family medicine doctor for primary care?
Having a family medicine doctor gives you the convenience and peace of mind of knowing that you can go to one trusted source for all of your family’s health care needs. Because they treat a variety of patients, family medicine doctors have a wide range of experience. They know how to communicate with patients of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly.
A family medicine doctor can be a convenient option for busy parents who want to take care of multiple family appointments on the same day.
Internal medicine-pediatrics doctors
Internal medicine-pediatrics doctors are two types of doctors in one. They’re board-certified in both internal medicine and pediatrics. These doctors care for kids and adults, and can help prevent, treat and diagnose diseases. They’re also called med-peds doctors (pronounced: MED-peeds).
Pediatricians specialize in caring for children, from birth through early adulthood. They’re trained to treat minor illnesses and injuries, along with more complex conditions.
Pediatricians are experts at understanding developmental milestones and keeping children on track toward a healthy future.
Why choose a pediatrician for primary care?
While their area of focus overlaps with family medicine doctors, who also see children, pediatricians specialize in children’s health care. They’re familiar with a wide range of childhood medical conditions and are experienced in talking with children and helping them feel comfortable – a big plus if your child is shy or scared of going to the doctor.
Internal medicine doctors
Internal medicine doctors (also called internists) care for adults from early adulthood through old age. Because they only treat adult patients, internists are well versed in issues that primarily affect adults, like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Why choose an internal medicine doctor for primary care?
Internal medicine doctors are trained to treat both simple and complex conditions. They’re experts at balancing your regular preventive care needs with your specialized care needs.
Also called med-peds doctors, internal medicine-pediatrics doctors are two types of physicians in one. Because they’re board-certified in both internal medicine and pediatrics, they can care for both kids and adults.
Why choose an internal medicine-pediatrics doctor for primary care?
Many patients choose a med-peds doctor because they appreciate knowing their physician has a dual board certification as both a pediatrician and an internist.
OB-GYN (obstetrics and gynecology) doctors are experts in women’s health. They provide routine women’s health services and screenings, and can practice within a primary care clinic or a specialty office.
OB-GYNs assist with family planning and can help you choose from available birth control options. They also care for you during milestones like pregnancy and menopause.
Why choose an OB-GYN doctor for primary care?
Many women consider their OB-GYN a close and trusted medical advisor. In addition to women’s health care, your OB-GYN can also provide preventive care, like annual checkups, and some screenings, like mammograms and Pap tests.
Because OB-GYNs specialize in the female reproductive system, it’s a good idea to see both an OB-GYN and a primary care doctor. While your OB-GYN can provide some general preventive care, like your annual flu shot, your primary care doctor can help you when you’re sick or have questions about your overall health.
No matter what type of doctor you see, seeing them regularly is key
Whether your primary care physician is a family medicine doctor, pediatrician, internist, med-ped or OB-GYN, seeing a doctor regularly makes it easier to stay on top of your health. You’ll get the physicals, screenings and immunizations you need, when you need them.
Primary care doctors can also catch developing conditions when they’re the most treatable, making it more likely that treatment will be less intensive and probably cost less, too.
Preventive care appointments and screenings are often free
Preventive care visits are covered 100% by most health insurance plans – even high-deductible ones.
If you have questions about what’s covered and what isn’t, including whether the doctor you’d like to see is in your network, contact your insurance provider to make sure. If you have HealthPartners insurance, you can call 800-883-2177.
Find a primary doctor near you
Whether you live in the Twin Cities, central Minnesota or western Wisconsin, it’s easy to find a primary care doctor near you.
Browse our primary care doctors to find one who’s right for you.
Primary care physicians devote the majority of their practice to providing primary care services to a defined population of patients. The style of primary care practice is such that the personal primary care physician serves as the entry point for substantially all of the patient’s medical and health care needs – not limited by problem origin, organ system, or diagnosis. Primary care physicians are advocates for the patient in coordinating the use of the entire health care system to benefit the patient.
Definition #4 – Non-Primary Care Physicians Providing Primary Care Services
Physicians who are not trained in the primary care specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics may sometimes provide patient care services that are usually delivered by primary care physicians. These physicians may focus on specific patient care needs related to prevention, health maintenance, acute care, chronic care or rehabilitation. These physicians, however, do not offer these services within the context of comprehensive, first contact and continuing care.
The contributions of physicians who deliver some services usually found within the scope of primary care practice may be important to specific patient needs. However, the absence of a full scope of training in primary care requires that these individuals work in close consultation with fully-trained, primary care physicians. An effective system of primary care may utilize these physicians as members of the health care team with a primary care physician maintaining responsibility for the function of the health care team and the comprehensive, ongoing health care of the patient.
Definition #5 – Non-Physician Primary Care Providers
There are providers of health care other than physicians who render some primary care services. Such providers may include nurse practitioners, physician assistants and some other health care providers.
These providers of primary care may meet the needs of specific patients. They should provide these services in collaborative teams in which the ultimate responsibility for the patient resides with the primary care physician. (1975) (2006)
*In this document, the term physician refers only to doctors of medicine (M.D.) and osteopathy (D.O.).
Use of Term
The AAFP recognizes the term “primary care” and that family physicians provide services commonly recognized as primary care. However, the terms, “primary care” and “family medicine” are not interchangeable. “Primary care” does not fully describe the activities of family physicians nor the practice of family medicine. Similarly, primary care departments do not replace the form or function of family medicine departments. (1977) (2016 COD)
Study reinforces benefits of primary care
A study published earlier this year in JAMA Internal Medicine examined the value of primary care. Researchers analyzed survey results from 49,286 US adults with a PCP and 21,133 US adults without a PCP.
They found that adults with primary care were significantly more likely to fill more prescriptions and to have a routine preventive visit in the past year. They were also significantly more likely to receive more high-value care such as cancer screenings, including colorectal cancer screening and mammography.
Choosing a PCP team
The best PCPs are great communicators who work in teams that keep the patient at the center of all diagnostic and treatment activities. A PCP team often comprises medical assistants, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers. At any given time, a patient will need support from the team member who is best qualified to find a solution to a specific problem. This approach extends the reach and efficiency of busy clinicians, and helps patients navigate a complicated health care system.
When choosing a PCP, it is important to consider your current health status and needs. Those with complicated needs or chronic medical illness would benefit most from a PCP team that can help with all aspects of health care. Looking for a practice that is a certified medical home is one way to find a good PCP team. Ask questions about the team and how it works.
If you are currently healthy and don’t have extensive medical needs, now is a great time to establish a relationship with a PCP who can get to know you, and help you meet your health care goals. They will also be there when you need them.
Preparing for your visits
Gathering previous medical records, medication lists, and insurance information is a good idea in planning for a first visit to your new PCP. Bringing a list of questions will help you make the most of the visit. The PCP will be better able to design a health care plan if they have a good sense of who you are and what your current needs are.
Additional visits may be required to address multiple symptoms, conditions, or concerns. Make sure your most pressing concerns are addressed, but also be ready to accept that additional visits or consultation with other members of the team may be needed.
Find out the best way to communicate with your PCP team between visits. Many practices have secure patient portals where non-urgent issues can be addressed by the appropriate team member, possibly reducing the need for a face-to-face visit.
PCPs can also help navigate transitions of care if you need to enter the health care system. Having guidance and support when leaving the hospital and going back home or to a rehabilitation facility can make a big difference in how well you regain previous levels of health and independence.
Most adults will need to enter the health care system at some point in their life. Having a PCP team that gets to know you as an individual in the context of your goals, values, and preferences will make it easier to get the care you need.
When you stick with one doctor, and have any other providers send information back to them, it should be easy for them (or you!) to look up whether you’ve already had the test they want to order.
You haven’t had a checkup in forever
Healthy adults might not need a checkup every year, but that’s not a license to never get one. Plenty of your health needs don’t relate to a specific body part that hurts enough to send you to an urgent care.
Preventive care is important if you want to stay healthy. Depending on your age and other risk factors, you might need vaccines, cancer screenings, or other routine tests and procedures. Good news: even if you have a high deductible, insurance plans must offer most preventive care at no cost.
You wish you could get quick answers to your questions
Sometimes you don’t want to drag yourself to the urgent care just to find out the answer to a simple question. Video visits can work for simple things, but they still take time and there’s no seamless hand-off if you end up needing to see a provider in person.
But if you’ve already established a relationship with a PCP, you can often call them (or message them) to get a quick answer to something you’re wondering. They have all your records, and best of all, often they will actually remember you. In general, if they saw you recently, you can usually get prescriptions filled and simple questions answered. So if you aren’t motivated by concern for your health, consider getting a PCP as a way of indulging your laziness.
Many Americans don’t have a primary care doctor
Some 28% of U.S. men and 17% of women don’t have a personal doctor or healthcare provider, according to a government survey.
The problem is worse among minorities, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation of data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2013-2015 survey results. For instance, almost half of Hispanic men (47%) report they don’t have a primary care physician.
The data is based on a randomly dialed telephone survey of adults age 18 and older. The report provides a breakdown by state and by race/ethnicity. Here are some highlights of the report:
Among men, 23% of whites say they don’t have a personal doctor, a number that jumps to 31% of blacks, 47% of Hispanics, 30% of Asians, native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders and 36% of American Indians or Alaskan natives.
Among women, 13% of whites say they don’t have a personal doctor, which increases to 18% of blacks, 33% of Hispanics, 21% of Asians, native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders and 25% of American Indians or Alaska natives.
The survey also found that 17% of U.S. women did not see a doctor in the past year because of cost and 19% reported fair or poor health status. States with the highest number of women without primary care doctors were Nevada and Texas, where 28% of women said they did not have a personal doctor.
The states with the highest number of men without primary care doctors were Alaska (42%) and Nevada (41%). Some 17% of men reported fair or poor health status.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the U.S. could lose as many as 100,000 doctors by 2025 and primary care physicians are already in short supply, particularly in rural areas.
Choosing Your Doctor (Primary Care Physician)
Why should you choose a primary care physician?
Don’t wait until you get sick to choose a PCP. Primary care physicians typically prefer to see their patients regularly and look for symptoms a patient may not notice.
For example, a routine health exam may uncover conditions such as high blood pressure or even hormonal imbalances due to glandular problems. Health problems like these can go unnoticed by the patient for years and could result in serious chronic health issues. Annual exams may help your PCP guide you toward healthy lifestyle habits that may decrease the likelihood that you’ll need expensive specialty care.
Developing a relationship with your primary care physician can help keep illnesses at bay. Remember the old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
To ensure that you have the right coverage before seeing a doctor, let us help to find the right health plan for you. Enter your zip code where requested on this page to see a personalized health insurance quote.
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