July 23, 2018
Picking the right primary care provider (PCP) can be difficult, but it’s one of the most important health care decisions you can make. Patients who receive personalized care tend to make healthier life choices, focus more on prevention and detect health problems earlier. Moreover, a good relationship with a PCP lowers your risk of dying of cancer, heart disease and stroke. In other words, your PCP can make you healthier, if you choose wisely.
So how do you decide? Many patients get stuck blindly choosing a provider and then hoping for the best. Often the default is a physician who accepts a certain insurance. With fewer and fewer physicians choosing to practice primary care, it’s time to consider a nurse practitioner (NP) - an equally capable provider who offers high quality, patient-centered care.
Increasingly, NPs are the providers of choice for many patients looking to play a more proactive role in their own health. In every state, NPs assess patients, order and interpret tests, make diagnoses and provide treatment – including prescribing medications. They can be found in clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, nursing homes and private practices nationwide, and their appeal extends well beyond their six-plus years of advanced education and clinical training.
The differences play out in big and small ways. While both physicians and NPs focus on diagnosing illness, NPs’ training also encourages a wellness-first approach. While physicians are more likely to have gridlocked schedules, NPs by design spend more time with patients. While a physician may be focused on finding the right treatment for stubborn high blood pressure, NPs also look at your diet, exercise and sleep schedules to find possible underlying causes.
In the end, there is no one right answer in choosing a PCP, but there are important considerations to weigh before you make your decision. Here are five smart questions to help guide your choice.
A good PCP knows your history, your personality, your bad habits and your treatment preferences, and they help you navigate your healthiest life by treating your illness, but more intentionally, promoting your wellness. As we face a mounting physician shortage and changing paradigms for care, NPs are delivering primary care in a way that suits millions of Americans - in over 1 billion patient visits per year. The good news for patients is that there is more choice than ever. It’s what you do with that choice that will impact your health for years to come, so take the time to find a PCP that is right for you.