Primary Care Physician

A Primary Care Physician (PCP) is a medical doctor who is usually the first medical practitioner seen by a patient.

If the patient has an HMO, the PCP typically acts as a “gatekeeper” who regulates access to specialists and/or more costly procedures. In this way, the patient goes to their PCP first and is then referred. PCPs also acts on behalf of the patient and works with specialists as well as organizing how care is given in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organization.

Only three medical specialties qualify to be PCPs:

  • Family Practice or General Practice: This is a doctor who is qualified to care for entire families. Family Practitioners are usually board-certified and have further training in areas such as obstetrics, gynecology, internal medicine, pediatrics, and others.
  • Internal Medicine: Internists diagnose and treat diseases using medicines. An internist is not the same thing as a surgeon. Internists can often specialize in a treating a particular organ(s), disease, or age group.
  • Pediatrics: Pediatricians specialize in the well-being and care of children. Pediatricians treat kids from birth to adolescence, usually 14 to 17 years old. Pediatricians may also specialize in a particular area such as surgery or pediatric pulmonology.

You can usually find a PCP in a number of ways. You can go through your insurance company’s list of providers, go on a friend’s suggestion, ask your current physician to recommend one, or use a hospitals referral service. The decision is up to you though, if you are covered under a managed care plan, you will still have to pick a doctor that is in your network.

In such a case, you can usually do a little research using the latter three methods and then check with your insurance company to see if a doctor is in your network. You may also want to use the internet to see any one has posted reviews on a PCP you might be considering.