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Categories > Family Wellness > Preventing illness and disease

Care for life
Consider what a PCP offers:
Finding the right match

Who’s who
Who’s who

You may choose any of the following as a PCP for yourself or your family:

  • Family practitioners look after patients of all ages.
  • General practitioners provide basic care to patients of all ages. The difference between them and other PCPs is that they have completed an internship (the first year of training after medical school) but not a residency (which trains doctors more in-depth in a specific branch of medicine).
  • Pediatricians treat children.
  • Internists specialize in adult diseases.
  • Obstetrician-gynecologists are the go-to doctors for many women.
  • Nurse practitioners and physician assistants receive special training and are sometimes called “physician extenders.” They treat patients while consulting with doctors.

You’re young and healthy, so you don’t have to see a healthcare provider too often. Maybe you’ve never really thought you needed a primary care provider (PCP). But PCPs are essential to your well-being.

Consider what a PCP offers:

  • knowledge of your medical history, offering you the best healthcare outcome
  • care for general medical problems, such as the flu and ear infections
  • preventive care, including blood tests and vaccinations
  • information on how to live a healthy lifestyle. For example, he or she can help you quit smoking or give you tips on eating right.
  • referrals to specialists. When your problem is beyond the scope of his or her expertise, your provider can direct you to the right person. Many specialists won’t see you without a referral from your PCP and most insurance companies won’t pay for a specialist visit without a referral from your PCP.

Finding the right match

You’re going to see your PCP for years to come, so make sure that you work well together. As you start your search for a provider, check with your insurance company to see which ones are covered. You can also ask friends, family or co-workers for recommendations. From there, you should:

  • Get the office specifics. Ask if the doctor is accepting new patients, find out the office hours and double-check that your insurance is accepted. Make sure the location is convenient, too.
  • Check credentials. Find out if a provider is board certified by calling the state medical licensing board or state board of nursing. You can also log on to the American Board of Medical Specialties Web site (
  • Interview the provider. You may pay nothing or a small co-pay for this appointment. You’ll get a good sense of his or her approach to medicine and see how the office is run.