In Aunt Martha’s integrated model, your Primary Care Provider (PCP) helps to coordinate all of your care in one place. Working with your PCP and the other people on your Care Team, you have access to a wide range of health services, including:
- Preventive care, such as immunizations, school, work and sports physicals, and cancer screenings;
- Chronic care for conditions like asthma, hypertension, and diabetes; and,
- Acute care for symptoms like cough, stomach pain, or high fever.
When you have a regular PCP, you also benefit from knowing that other physicians and medical staff within the practice also know your medical history. By working closely together, the different members of your Care Team can more easily spot patterns in your health and recommend lifestyle changes to avoid the need for expensive specialty care. For example, simple testing during a visit with your PCP can reveal health problems, such as high blood pressure, that may go unnoticed leading to more serious issues later in life.
Different Types of Primary Care Providers
Different types of PCPs treat different people depending on the patient’s specific needs. For example:
- Family practitioners, or family medicine doctors, care for patients of all ages, from infants, kids and teens, to adults and the elderly.
- Pediatricians care for babies, kids, and teens.
- Internists, or internal medicine doctors, care for adults, but some see patients who are in their late teens.
- Adolescent medicine specialists are pediatricians or internists who have additional training in caring for teens.
- Combined internal medicine and pediatric specialists have training in both pediatrics and internal medicine, allowing them to bridge the gap between treating young patients and adults.
- Obstetricians and gynecologists specialize in women’s health issues and are sometimes PCPs for girls who have started menstruating.
- A nurse practitioner or physician assistant sometimes is the main provider a child sees at a doctor’s office.
Differences Between Your Provider’s Office and the Emergency Department
Primary Care Provider (PCP)
- You’ll pay your primary care copay, if you have one. This may cost you between $0 and $50.
- You go when you feel sick and when you feel well.
- You call ahead to make an appointment.
- You may have a short wait to be called after you arrive but you will generally be seen around your appointment time.
- You’ll usually see the same provider each time.
- Your provider will usually have access to your health record.
- Your provider works with you to monitor your chronic conditions and helps you improve your overall health.
- Your provider will check other areas of your health, not just the problem that brought you in that day.
- If you need to see other providers or manage your care, your provider can help you make a plan, get your medicines, and schedule your recommended follow-up visits or find specialists.
- The Emergency Department is for emergencies ONLY!
- You’ll likely pay a copay, co-insurance, and have to meet your deductible before your health plan pays for your costs, especially if it’s not an emergency. Your copay may be between $50 and $150.
- You should only go when you’re injured or very sick.
- You show up when you need to and wait until they can get to you.
- You may wait for several hours before you’re seen if it’s not an emergency.
- You’ll see the provider who is working that day.
- The provider who sees you probably won’t have access to your health records. This makes follow-up care more complicated, and could mean they aren’t fully aware of allergies to certain medications.
- The provider may not know what chronic conditions you have.
- The provider will only check the urgent problem you came in to treat but might not ask about other concerns.
- When your visit is over you will be discharged with instructions to follow up with your primary care provider and/or specialist. There may not be any follow-up support.