Your health journey is unique and personal. You want a health care team made up of experts who understand your medical history and support your health through preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment. A team you can trust that’s tailored to you. A team that understands where you want to be and helps you get there.
That’s where your primary care provider comes in.
A primary care provider (PCP) is your main health care provider in non-emergency situations. They are typically the person you meet with most regularly for routine checkups, common medical concerns, and questions about your health. Doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physician’s assistants are all examples of PCPs.
As the expert on your health care team who will likely know you best, your PCP’s role is to:
And because these providers develop years-long, trusting relationships with their patients, they tend to have the most complete understanding of patients’ medical histories.
“In trying to achieve optimal health there are many things that can be done in health care, but I view the primary care doctor’s role as guiding a patient in what should be done,” says Kyle Morawski, MD, MPH, a Mass General Brigham internal medicine doctor. “The primary care relationship is best suited to help understand your goals, and then work with you to achieve them.”
Yes. Doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical nurses, and physician’s assistants all may be PCPs. PCPs can specialize in many areas, including the following areas of expertise:
Learn about Mass General Brigham Integrated Care
Choosing a primary care provider is an important task. After all, you’re looking for someone you’ll see for a long time and with whom you’ll build a relationship. This is the health care provider who will know the most about your health history—so it’s important that you choose a provider who makes you feel comfortable, someone you can trust.
“You’ll want to find someone that you ‘fit’ well with, someone with whom you can feel comfortable talking about anything,” says Graham Dresden, MD, a family medicine doctor at Mass General Brigham. “And behind that strong relationship will be a host of amazingly talented doctors and access to world-class specialists.“
When choosing a provider, take your health insurance into account. Many insurance plans limit the providers you can choose from, or offer financial incentives for you if you select from a set list of providers. Before you begin narrowing your options, make sure you understand what your insurance covers. Many health plans have websites, directories, or customer service staff who can aid you in PCP selection. For example, if you are an AllWays Health Partners member, you can find a provider in your network.
Once you’ve identified a list of covered providers, consider the following:
During your search, you may consider asking family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues if they have any recommendations for providers. Referrals can also come from:
You may find it difficult to open yourself up to a total stranger—but you realize that transparency is critical to a successful provider-patient relationship. Consider asking your provider some key questions that can help you understand them and their work.
Questions might include:
Once you find a PCP who meets your needs, you’ll have the foundation for a trustworthy care team that helps you manage every aspect of your health. As the expert with deepest understanding of your medical history, your PCP can refer you to the right specialists who can address chronic health conditions and acute needs. Referrals are only part of the picture when it comes to your holistic health. Clear communication and cooperation across your care team is what makes the biggest difference.
Mass General Brigham recognizes the critical role of high-quality, coordinated care for optimal health. Across our system, providers work closely together to deliver personalized care for all patients at every stage in their journey. For example, our Integrated Care providers use a relationship-centered approach to deliver collaborative primary care, behavioral health, and specialty care in one convenient location in local communities. Learn more about the advantages of Integrated Care.
If you are between PCPs when a minor health care problem arises, contact your local urgent care center. Urgent care teams are able to treat common illnesses and injuries for walk-in patients. But: always head to an emergency room if you have a serious injury or illness that may be life-threatening.
Finally, consider conducting an online search. Many providers have profiles online that feature their treatment approaches, research, areas of specialization, and more. You can also often find patient reviews of providers that may help you understand their approach to care.