Posts Tagged ‘primary care doctor’

Primary Care Physician or Specialist? 4 Things to Consider

While a primary care physician often take the lead in preventive care and wellness, they also can treat health conditions that require ongoing maintenance.A primary care physician (PCP) can play a pivotal role in your health care, and are often the first point of contact you have with the health system. While PCPs often take the lead in preventive care and general wellness, they also can treat many health conditions that require ongoing maintenance. These may include allergies, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and mood disorders, to name a few.

However, certain conditions may lead your PCP to refer you to a specialist, a physician with focused training in a specific area in the field of medicine.

There are 4 reasons you may be referred to a specialist:

You have a complex ongoing condition.

Many primary care physicians are skilled at managing ongoing health conditions – often referred to as chronic conditions – including diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure (hypertension). However, some diseases need a higher level of expertise in a medical specialty to provide treatments. You also may suffer from a more severe form of a disease that may put you at greater risk for a more serious health crisis.

For instance, a PCP may be able to help you with single kidney stone attack that keeps you out of work for a few days. But if you have multiple kidney stone attacks in as many months, or have a large kidney stone that is obstructing urine, there may be a deeper underlying problem. Your PCP may refer you to a nephrologist or urologist, doctors who specializes in kidney care and diseases that affect the kidneys and bladder.

You’re dealing with a rare disease.

When you have a rare disease like cystic fibrosis, a specialist can provide more resources for treatment and will likely be aware of the newest therapies available. By definition, a rare disease affects fewer than 200,000 Americans. Since your PCP functions as a health care generalist, he may not see your condition enough to fully manage it on his/her own. However, primary care physicians can work with a specialist to help fully manage the disease.

You received a life-altering or life-threatening diagnosis.

Certain medical conditions can mean you need to make significant lifestyle changes. Diabetes can mean insulin shots at regular intervals during the day, as well as significant changes in diet and more frequent visits to your doctor to monitor your condition. A stroke can require ongoing therapy and physical modifications to your home. It can be worth a visit with a specialist to assess your diagnosis and fine tune your treatment options.

Current treatments don’t seem to work

If a health problem persists in spite of a treatment that normally works or you have a set of symptoms that don’t make sense, you and your PCP may decide you need a specialist to take a deeper look at what may be affecting you.

Finding a specialist

Ask your primary care provider to recommend a physician who is in your health plan, or check your insurance plan’s list of physicians to see who participates and ask for a referral based on that list.

Related articles:
What is a PCP and Why Do I Need One?

Choosing a PCP: It’s a Big Decision

Primary Care PhysicianChoosing a primary care provider is a very important personal decision, and a number of factors should be considered to make sure you are selecting a healthcare professional with whom you can form a long-term relationship.

A primary care provider, or PCP for short, works with you to maintain your overall health by focusing on wellness and the optimum management of your chronic conditions to avoid future problems. And while your PCP is your health care hub, he or she can also help you with selection of and referral to a specialist should your condition warrant the additional expertise. While specialists focuse on their area of expertise, your PCP maintains a holistic perspective. In that way, your PCP will work with your specialist, or specialists, to guide you through your treatment course and provide high-level oversight of treatments, medications, therapies and recommendations to ensure your care is as coordinated as possible.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right PCP for you:

  • Ask Around – Talk to friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers about their providers. Also consider asking other healthcare professionals for their opinions. Many hospitals also offer referral services, and professional sites, like the state licensure boards, or certification boards (e.g. American Board of Medical Spectialties), confirm whether or not a doctor is Board certified or has any special qualifications you may require.
  • Consider The Details – Once you’ve got a list of potential providers, winnow it down by asking yourself some practical questions:
    • Do I prefer a male or female doctor?
    • Is the doctor in my age bracket? Will I be able to relate to him/her?
    • Where is the office located? Do I need a doctor close to home or the office?
    • What hours of the day is the office open and will those hours be convenient for me?
    • Is the office staff courteous and efficient?
    • Does the office use an electronic medical record and are they able to access your results electronically from the hospital, lab, or other providers.
    • If you are interested, does the PCP offer online and nontraditional options for communication and alternatives to face-to-face visits?
    • If I need to be admitted to the hospital, which hospital would I prefer? Does the doctor normally refer patients there?
    • Does this doctor accept my insurance? If not, am I willing to pay out of pocket ?
  • Board Certification – While there are several online lists and rankings of providers, very few have objective assessments of the provider’s clinical performance. However, while imperfect, Board Certification, does indicate that the provider has met some minimum requirements. It is important to recognize that many fine clinicians have not earned board certification for very appropriate reasons.
  • Board certified physicians have:
    • Earned their degrees from a qualified medical school
    • Completed three to seven years of accredited residency training
    • Are licensed by a state medical board
    • Have passed one or more exams administered by the ABMS
    • Career-long continuing education requirements they must meet to certification
  • In-person Interviews – Once you’ve decided which doctor looks best on paper, take the next step and interview him or her at his or her practice. Most doctors encourage this, although some may charge a small fee for their time.
  • During the visit, be aware of your total experience, including:
    • How easy – or difficult – was it to make the appointment.
    • Consider the way you are greeted by staff members when you arrive
    • Notice the length of time you spend waiting after you check in.
  • When interviewing the doctors
    • Feel free to ask tough questions.
    • Make sure you feel comfortable with his/her responses and that you are both on the same page when it comes to medications, treatments for chronic issues, and other factors important to you.
    • Consider the PCP’s bedside manner. If your personalities don’t align it will be hard to build trust.
  • Review Your Choice – Following the interview, carefully review the experience. If you weren’t happy with the outcome, continue your search. However, if all went well and the provider met your expectations, then it’s time to start building this very important relationship. You will rely on it for years to come.

About Dr. Gitomer

Richard Gitomer, MDRichard Gitomer, MD, is the President and Chief Quality Officer of the Emory Healthcare Network. Dr. Gitomer has been practicing internal medicine for more than 30 years at Emory.

Related Resources

What Is A PCP and Why Do I Need One?

Primary Care ProviderA primary care provider, or PCP, is your main point of contact for healthcare in non-emergency situations. Think of this type of healthcare provider as the quarterback of your entire health care team, the central point person whose role it is to coordinate your overall patient care, treatment and education.

Overall, your PCP is key to:

  • Providing preventive care and guidance on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle
  • Diagnosing and treating acute common medical conditions, such as cold, flu, infections, etc.
  • Treatment and management of chronic diseases such a high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Determining the severity of your medical problems, so he or she can direct you to the most appropriate care provider
  • Referring you to medical specialists when a condition requires more targeted treatment

In addition, a PCP ensures prescribed medications will not adversely affect other medications or supplements you may already be taking. Over time, your PCP learns your health history and what is most important to you and your long-term wellness. This high-level oversight ensures all of the treatments, medications, therapies and recommendations from various providers are as effective as possible.

Even if you are relatively healthy right now, things can and do change. This is especially true of millennials (the segment of the population born between the early 80s and the early 2000s), who are in the perfect position to establish health and wellness baselines with a dedicated primary care provider.

PCPs are usually physicians; however, physician assistants and nurse practitioners (collectively referred to as advance practice providers), who work under a qualified physician can also be your PCP. There are also different types of primary care physicians, some of which you may need at different points in your life, depending on your health care needs.

This chart identifies the different types of primary care physicians and can help you pinpoint which can help you most, depending on your health care needs.

Primary Care Physician

About Dr. Colovos

nick colovos, MDNick Colovos, MD, received degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993, and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a very unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients.

 

  • Program Director of Urgent Care Services
  • Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta Georgia
  • Assistant Clinical Professor of Family and Preventative Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta Georgia

 

Related Resources

Find a Physician
Emory Primary Care Clinics